The Scandal of Hypocrisy (Luke 11:29-12:3)

Have you ever heard someone make this statement: “I don’t go to church because of all the hypocrites.”?  If so, is it a fair statement? Are there hypocrites in the church?  What is hypocrisy and what does the Bible say about it?  This morning we will study Luke 11:29-12:3 and from it learn about the “The Scandal of Hypocrisy”.

In verse 29 we read that “the crowds were increasing.”  Many people were coming to Jesus because word of Him had reached their ears. Jesus, however, knew that the crowds were not increasing because of their great faith, but rather they were trying to use Him for their own advantage.

Jesus spends a considerable amount of time in our passage rebuking a deadly sin that tragically is found among many religious people. This deadly sin is hypocrisy.  Hypocrisy in religion can be best described as a focus on outward religious performance to the neglect of inward spiritual faithfulness.  Jesus rebukes and warns about hypocrisy because it destroys our Christian witness and makes a mockery of Jesus Christ.  This morning we will consider 4 negative aspects of hypocrisy and a sober warning:

  1. Hypocrisy demonstrates a lack of faith (29-32)
  2. Hypocrisy “majors” in the “minors” (37-44)
  3. Hypocrites are easily offended (v 45; 53-54)
  4. Hypocrisy sets up unnecessary burdens (46-52)
  5. Hypocrisy shall be exposed (33-36; 12:1-3)

Hypocrisy demonstrates a lack of faith (29-32)

Jesus looked at the ever increasing crowds and, knowing their hearts, called them an “evil generation.”  He called them this because It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah” (29).  Jesus knew that even though they demanded signs, they needed repentance.  A lack of proof was not their problem; their problem was a lack of faith.  Jesus responds by telling them that the only sign that will sufficiently help them is the sign of Jonah: the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  Their demand for a sign demonstrated their hypocrisy through their lack of faith.

Hypocrisy majors in the minors (37-44)

After Jesus finished speaking, “a Pharisee asked Him to dine with him” (37).  During the meal, “The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner” (38).  This washing was a ceremonial ritual that was not commanded by God, but rather instituted by man.  Jesus responds to the hypocrisy of this Pharisee by saying, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness” (39).  The Pharisee, hypocritically, was more concerned about the cleanliness of his hands than his heart.

Hypocrites are easily offended (45; 53-54)

After Jesus had rebuked the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, “One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also” (45).  The lawyers set themselves up as ones who loved God, but when God the Son spoke truth to them they took offence.  Later in verses 53-54, these hypocritical leaders “began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say.”  The lawyers, scribes, and Pharisees demonstrated their hypocrisy through their response of offence and anger rather than repentance and faith.

Hypocrisy sets up unnecessary burdens (46-52)

When Jesus rebuked the lawyers, He said “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers” (46). Jesus later says, “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering” (52).  These religious leaders demonstrate their hypocrisy through a rigid adherence to law to the neglect of grace.  They not only refuse to show grace, they refuse to accept the grace of God.

Hypocrisy shall be exposed (33-36; 12:1-3)

Our final warning comes from 33-36, Jesus tells His followers to make sure that they focus first on inward spiritual faithfulness.  If “your eye is healthy” (34), then “your whole body is full of light” (34). If your inner man is renewed by Christ, then there will most likely be sincere outward acts of religion.  In 12:1-3, Jesus warns His followers about the “leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (1).  He then warns in verses 2-3 that all hypocrisy will be judged by God:

Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

Application

When we think of the Pharisees, it is easy to dismiss them with air of superiority.  We may think (or even say) that we could never by guilty of their folly.  But if we are honest, we can be just as guilty of hypocrisy as they were.  In fact, the Pharisees did not intentionally want to be hypocrites; they really thought they were doing “good” for the kingdom of God.  Therefore, let us examine ourselves and ask these questions of reflection:

  1. Do I have faith in the promises of God or do I usually “seek a sign”?
  2. Do I focus more on minor Christian issues to the neglect of major Christian issues?
  3. Do I hold people to standards that have no biblical basis?  Are there standards I set for others that I myself do not hold?
  4. Am I easily offended?  Do I seek to provoke and catch people saying and doing things for my own advantage?
  5. Do I live in fear that I will be exposed and shamed because my actions do not reflect my beliefs?  Do I live in fear that I really do not believe what I say I believe?

Prayer

Heavenly Father, help us to find our happiness in You alone.  Please reveal to us that hypocrisy destroys our Christian witness and makes a mockery of Christ.  Help us to seek to know any areas of hypocrisy in our lives and give us the strength to fight.