September 4 I Tuesday
1 Corinthians 14:21-40
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!” —Matthew 23:13
In its original Greek, “hypocrite” meant “to play act.” It referred to actors who wore masks on stage and pretended to be someone else, sometimes changing masks and characters throughout a show. Hypocrisy has since become a negative word, but one consistent with its roots. A hypocrite is a person of duplicitous character, especially someone who pretends to be pious, virtuous or spiritual when they are really not.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus applies the term “hypocrite” to those who practice their righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Though Jesus does not mention the Pharisees by name here, He likely had them in mind. Shortly before His death, Jesus gave seven reasons why the Pharisees where pretenders who wore pious masks. Among those reasons, He said the Pharisees were “like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27). Their actions made them look like the real deal on the outside, but inside, their hearts were spiritually dead.
History tells us the Pharisees did not start this way. The group formed in the mid-second century B.C. as a revival movement concerned with the holiness of Israel. A group of Jewish men concluded that the reason the Jews had been taken into exile and subject to foreign rule was that the people had failed to keep the Law of Moses. They therefore devoted themselves to observing all the words of the Law, hoping by this they would please God and be restored as the vehicle through which God would bless the world. Their movement was born out of a sincere desire to have their hearts made right before God, but like many holiness movements, the emphasis slowly migrated from holiness of heart to outward religious conformity.
If our experience of the Christian life is primarily external and visible, it is in danger of being superficial and hypocritical. God never does through us what He doesn’t first do in us, and what He does in us begins in the secret place of our lives. This is the place deep within us where, in love and gentleness, God exposes us for what we are so He might cleanse and fill us with Himself. As we get alone with Him, talk with Him and share with Him what we share with no one else, out of that will flow life, fruit and effectiveness because we will have ceased being play actors. Instead of putting forward a righteous façade, we will be holy and righteous because the real deal, Christ Himself, is filling and empowering us.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, expose any areas of my life where I have been a hypocrite. Forgive me of my hypocrisy, and thank You that when I meet with You in the secret place, You make me holy.
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