April 19, 2019
When Jesus spoke to the Jewish religious leaders of His day in Matthew Chapter 23, He made the following statement several time, “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” Previously, Jesus had taught on the Sermon on the Mount that unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, we will, by no means, enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus revealed that the supposed “righteousness” of the scribes and Pharisees was mere hypocrisy. It was merely the appearance of righteousness. They looked good and religious in front of people, but God could see their hearts and knew they were far from Him. Jesus saw that most of the Jewish religious leaders were more affectionate for the concerns of this life and the approval of men and women, and their genuine affection for God was far distant. Though the Jewish religious leaders appeared to be committed to God’s Law, having it memorized and seeming to build their lives on its principles, they figured themselves to be superior over others for their outward performances, assuming their works were sufficient to please the holy and righteous God. They were not. Jesus plainly said that He demands a greater form of righteousness than hypocritical righteousness in order to enter His kingdom.
According to the Bible, the only righteousness that God will accept to permit entrance into His kingdom is His own righteousness. The only way to gain God’s own righteousness is by His Spirit. According to Isaiah 57:15, the Spirit of God dwells in the hearts of the humble and the contrite; that is, those who do not profess themselves to be good people, but recognize the superior righteousness of God and humble themselves before Him in repentance. For all others who feel they can do things that are pleasing to God on their own, woe to them! The testimony of Job speaks often of hypocrites and the fate of those who live by hypocrisy. This is because Job’s friends figured that Job was being punished for hypocrisy. Knowing how much hypocrisy offends God, they figured that Job’s suffering was clearly a form of punishment from God. Job’s suffering was severe because hypocrisy is a severe offense. However, this was not true, and Job was committed to proving himself right. In the testimony of Job 27:7-10, the Bible shows that Job tried to plead his innocence by explaining the fate of hypocrites. Explaining the miserable consequences that all hypocrites face, Job hoped that his friends would see that he wanted no part of those woes.
In Job 27:7-10, Job explained that the fate of a wicked hypocrite is the type of thing that a person wishes upon their worst enemies. Job was not wishing his enemies to be judged by God. Job was not referring to his friends as his enemies, hoping they would burn in hell. Job simply referred to a common saying and concept. Regardless of what actually happens to our worst enemies, it is commonly understood that most people only wish terrible things on their enemies. The worse the enemy, the worse the consequence people often desire. Job used this common way of thinking to express that the consequences of hypocrisy are the types of consequences that a person would only wish upon the worst of their worst enemies. In other words, it would be better to be destitute, poor, naked, homeless, and suffering the most intense physical pain all at once rather than suffer the fate of an unrepentant hypocrite! Job made this point so as to explain to his friends that, he knew about God’s dealings with these sorts of people. He did not desire this judgment and his fear of this judgment was one of several factors that kept him from being a hypocrite.
Job explained that unrepentant hypocrites have no hope. They go through life trusting in the affections of this world that are corrupted and decaying. They seek the pleasures of this life that are vain and meaningless. They pursue relationships to gratify the flesh, which can never be satisfied. They only desire to please people for the sake of self-gratification and personal gain, thereby leaving them hallow and isolated. The Bible teaches that the hypocrite labors to please self and others, not the One True Living God that provides the breath of life in this world and the next. This is why the Lord explained that when He meets hypocrites in judgment, it is “woe to them!” Jesus will not say, “Well done good and faithful servant,” because the hypocrite only pretends to be a good and righteous person. They are not truly righteous and good in the eyes of God because they only seek to serve self, not Him. Thus, Jesus explained that many will face Him in the day of judgment and He will say, “Depart from Me you who practice lawlessness. I never knew you.” Notice that Jesus “never” knew the hypocrite because the hypocrite is determined to live for self, and is willing to sacrifice a relationship with God in order to do so. What hope is there for this kind of life?
Job confessed that many hypocrites are able to receive great gain. The efforts and labor of hypocrites often produces the appearance of prosperity. The Jewish religious leaders that Jesus condemned were rich and had great influence over the people. This is why so many figured they were so pleasing to God. Their outward prosperity seemed to be an indication of God’s approval. This is not how it works. A hypocrite might be able to gain much in this life, but God will take that life away – if not in this world, certainly in eternity. Recall that God is the One who has life in Himself. He is not dependent on the hypocrite for anything. He is not obligated to applaud the labor of the hypocrite. The prosperity of the hypocrite doesn’t impress or intimidate God. The prosperity of the hypocrite comes by the mercy and grace of God. Thus, when God’s mercy and grace has reached its limit, God will respond according to justice and righteousness, at which point the prosperity of the hypocrite will come to an end. The good days will be gone. The comforts of this life will be gone. The happiness that seemed to be abundant and never-ending, will indeed come to an end. Blessed and happy are those who trust in the Lord. Not those who trust in self.
The scriptures explain that the attitudes of hypocrites have a profound effect on their relationship with God. Since the hypocrite is not affectionate and humble towards God, He will not hear their prayer. When they call to Him, it will be in pretense, not in humble and repentant sincerity. God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. The hypocrite doesn’t approach God with humility, but with self-entitlement and arrogance. Thus, God resists them and their words. God will not hear them when they cry out to Him unless it is with genuine brokenness, humility, and repentance; depending on Him for righteousness rather than seeking to please self. Job understood the temperament of hypocrites, that when trouble comes, they might appear to call out to God, but are not sincere.
Here it is important to notice that Job said, “when trouble comes.” Job did not say, “if trouble comes.” This shows that trouble will certainly come to the hypocrite as surely as it comes to the humble. God is not a respecter of persons. This dynamic shows that God uses trouble to validate and expose the hypocrites and the humble. God exercises His sovereign control to show who the hypocrites are, and who His humble servants are. When the hypocrite has their trouble, they might call on God for a moment, expecting to be bailed out of their inconvenience. Yet, when things seem to be good, will the hypocrite call on God then? Will the hypocrite depend on God when things seem to be normal? When the circumstances of life transition from troubling to tolerable, will the hypocrites cry to God remain constant, or will they go back to self-seeking? Job pointed out that those who are truly humble will not waiver in their affection, pursuit, and dependency on God. Those who truly desire God’s righteousness will humbly pursue Him, depending on Him whether life is troubling, normal, or prosperous.
The point of all this is that the hypocrite doesn’t delight in the Lord. The hypocrite doesn’t have affection for the Lord, especially compared to the affections of this world. The hypocrite doesn’t take pleasure in the Lord compared to personal ambitions or desires. It is the personal pleasures of this life that are built up as idols before God so that a person only pretends to love God, but loves this life more. The God of heaven and earth knows. The God who has life in Himself knows. The Almighty knows. Job understood this truth and so was terrified of being a hypocrite and the consequences of hypocrisy. Job explained these things in hopes that his friends would see his fear of hypocrisy, and see that he indeed was innocent. Here, the Bible provides sound wisdom. It is a good thing for us to be terrified of hypocrisy and the consequences of it. If Jesus says, “Woe to you,” it is good for His people to be terrified to resemble the characteristics of that type of person. Let that fear motivate us to conduct our lives as contrary to hypocrites as possible, depending on the Lord and His righteousness, through humble repentance, to abstain from this evil.