Confronting the Hidden Pharisee Within Your Heart

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as it was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first twenty-one verses of the twelfth chapter of this New Testament book. “And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and Pharisees began ta urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things: laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth” (Luke 11:53-54). When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the beloved physician Luke writing that while the Pharisees were seeking to provoke Jesus to speak of many things as they laid wait for Him seeking to catch something out of His mouth to accuse Him there were gathered together a great host and company of people before and around Him. It is actually quite astonishing and remarkable when you read the words which are found within the final verses of the eleventh chapter and the opening verses of the twelfth chapter, for while the Pharisees were scheming and conspiring together against Jesus that they might have reason to accuse Him there were still great crowds and multitudes of people which gathered themselves unto the Lord Jesus Christ. It is truly something worth thinking about and considering when reading this particular portion of Scripture how even though religion and the religious system sought to lay wait for Jesus seeking to catch something out of His mouth wherewith they might have grounds to accuse Him there were still great crowds of people which gathered themselves together before and around Jesus. In the opening verses of the twelfth chapter of this particular New Testament book we find how in the meantime—while the Pharisees were seeking to find ways and means to accuse Jesus—there was gathered together an innumerable multitude of people. In fact, so great was this crowd of people that Luke goes on to write and record how they trode upon one another being part of the press. Oh it is truly something unique and worth thinking about that even though religion sought for means to accuse Jesus the people during those days were still eager to gather themselves before and around Him to hear the words He would speak, as well as to bring their needs before and unto Him.

            The opening verses of the twelfth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke are an incredibly powerful picture surrounding Jesus—and not only Jesus, but also the great crowd and multitude of people which gathered themselves before and around Him. What makes this all the more intriguing and astonishing when you take the time to think about it is that when speaking to these people who gathered themselves unto Him Jesus would speak unto His disciples first of all concerning the Pharisees—and not only concerning the Pharisees, but concerning the leaven of the Pharisees. If you begin reading with the second portion of the first and opening verse of this chapter you will find Jesus speaking unto His disciples and warning them to guard themselves and to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which He would go on to describe as hypocrisy. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we pay close and careful attention to this particular portion of Scripture and the words of Jesus, for they are closely aligned together with words which Jesus spoke early on during His public ministry in what is known as the Sermon on the Mount. While it is true that in this passage of Scripture Jesus speaks unto His disciples and warns them of the leaven of the Pharisees, it is also true in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew that Jesus warned of the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees. In all reality, it is actually quite astonishing and captivating to read the four gospel narratives and to discover Jesus’ warning unto His disciples and followers—not only concerning the leaven of the Pharisees which was hypocrisy, but also the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. It is truly something worth thinking about and considering when reading these two portions of Scripture that Jesus not only warned His disciples and followers of the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, but also warned them of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees as well.

            It is with all of this in mind I would like to invite you to consider the following words which are found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. It is in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find the first record of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and it is within that sermon we find Jesus speaking of the Law and the prophets, and how He did not come to abolish or do away with the Law, but to fulfill it. Moreover, Jesus would go on to declare that there would not be one jot or tittle of the Law and the prophets that would pass away and perish, but that all would be fulfilled. It is in the context of the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets—and not only in the context of the Law and the prophets being fulfilled, but in the context of Jesus fulfilling the Law and the prophets we find Him warning the disciples and followers concerning the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees. We cannot and must not read the four gospel narratives and not encounter and come face to face with the absolutely awesome and powerful truth surrounding the disciples of Jesus and how He warned them—not only concerning their own righteousness, but also concerning the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. I am absolutely and completely convinced we must needs pay close and careful attention to the words which are found in this portion of Scripture, for the words we find here in this portion of Scripture bring us face to face with a righteousness which pleases the Father which is in heaven, and a righteousness which does not please the Father. Jesus issued a very clear and present warning before and unto His disciples and followers very early on concerning their righteousness, and how unless their righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and the Pharisees they would not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Pause for a moment and consider the fact that there was indeed within and during those days a righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees—a righteousness which was viewed and perceived by others as being a righteousness that was pleasing in the sight of the Father in heaven, and yet Jesus shows up and almost immediately begins to decry that righteousness. Oh with this in mind, I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative which was written by the apostle Matthew:

            “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-20).

            We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in this portion of Scripture, for within this portion of Scripture we find Jesus the Christ not only speaking of a righteousness which the Pharisees themselves thought they had and possessed, but decrying and speaking against it. During those days the scribes and the Pharisees would have been looked upon and viewed as being those who possessed a righteousness which was pleasing in the sight of the Father which was in heaven, and yet what we find here in this portion of Scripture is Jesus warning His disciples of this righteousness and that unless their righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and the Pharisees they would in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. It is truly something worth thinking about and considering when reading the words found in this portion of Scripture that Jesus would deliver what might very well have been His first sermon, and it would be within that sermon He would decry, warn and speak against the perceived and alleged righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees. What makes this interesting is Jesus didn’t speak anything concerning that righteousness and what it was like—simply that unless the righteousness of those who sought to walk with and follow Him as disciples must needs a righteousness that exceeded that of the scribes and the Pharisees. Oh how truly incredible and captivating this is when you take the time to think about it, for it calls and draws our attention to the fact that those to whom Jesus was speaking had one idea and one view of righteousness during those days, and yet Jesus came to introduce—and not only introduce, but also to produce—an entirely different brand of righteousness. Oh I am absolutely and incredibly captivated with and by the words which are found here in this portion of Scripture, for within the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative you find Jesus acknowledging and speaking of what was perceived as righteousness during those days, and how the righteousness of the kingdom—that righteousness which was pleasing before and unto the Father was entirely and altogether different. Oh with this in mind I invite you to consider some of the following words which are found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Matthew concerning what I would call and classify as “the old righteousness” and “the new righteousness”—a righteousness which was not of the earth, but a righteousness which was heavenly and proceeded from the heart and mind of the Father:

            “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing” (Matthew 5:21-26).

            “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I sayu not you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: For it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: For it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” (Matthew 5:27-32).

            “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto  you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt lover thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: For he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:38-48).

            It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we pay close and careful attention to the words which are found within this portion of Scripture, for the words which we find here bring us face to face with the tremendous contrast between what was perceived as righteousness which pleased the living God and righteousness which Jesus declared was pleasing in His sight. If and as you read the words which are found in this portion of Scripture you will be brought face to face with the incredibly awesome and powerful truth surrounding the former and old righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees which might very well have been perceived as the standard of righteousness. There is not a doubt in my mind that the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees was perceived, viewed and thought of us a righteousness which pleased the living and eternal God, and there would have been a number of men and women who would have devoted their lives to adhering to this righteousness and seeking to incorporate it within their lives. I am absolutely and completely convinced when reading the words found in this portion of Scripture that there were many during these days who thought and perceived that the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees was such that pleased, honored and glorified the living and eternal God, and yet here comes Jesus entirely and altogether debunking that theory and belief. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of what is written and found within this portion of Scripture, for what we find here is an incredibly powerful picture of Jesus emphatically declaring unto those who wished to walk with and follow Him that there was a righteousness which was entirely and altogether different from that of the scribes and the Pharisees. When Jesus came to the earth, it is true that He did indeed and did in fact come to the earth to establish the kingdom of heaven within and upon the earth, however, we must also recognize and understand that directly linked and connected to that kingdom was a righteousness that was not of the earth, and a righteousness which was not taught by and among men during and up to those times.

            The more I think about and consider this particular truth the more I am brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that when Jesus the Christ came unto the earth He came to introduce a righteousness that was entirely and altogether different from that of the scribes and the Pharisees. When Jesus came into the earth He came introducing and teaching a righteousness that was entirely and altogether separate from that which they believed and thought within their hearts. What’s more, is that we must needs recognize and acknowledge that many during those days would have heard and would have been taught one thing and would have believed one way, and yet Jesus was teaching and introducing something entirely different. The righteousness which Jesus came teaching, and the righteousness which Jesus sought to introduce during those days was a righteousness that was beyond mere external and outward demonstration, manifestation and show, and was something that was present within the heart and mind of an individual. The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was in fact an external and outward observance and adherence to the Law of Moses, however, it was only surface level and did not truly strike at the very heart of the Law and the prophets. IF there is one thing we must needs realize and recognize when reading these words it’s that the righteousness which the scribes and Pharisees adhered to was a surface level righteousness, and one that merely scratched the surface of that which the Law and the prophets commanded and required of those who sought to please and glorify the living and eternal God. What makes this all the more intriguing when you think about and consider it is that it was indeed possible for there to be a surface level obedience to the Law and the prophets—one which sought to simply satisfy what the Law required—while there was something much deeper and something much greater—something which sought not only to satisfy the Law and the prophets, but something that satisfied the very heart of the living God.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found within this portion and passage of Scripture, and I am brought to the place where I must needs acknowledge that the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees was a righteousness which was solely based on outward and external demonstrations and manifestations of obedience to what the Law and the prophets required. Jesus acknowledged that which they had heard, that which they had been taught, and that which they had observed, and yet in light of what they had heard and been taught Jesus was calling to something much deeper and something much greater. If and as you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you must needs recognize and understand that the righteousness which Jesus was speaking of and seeking to establish in the lives of those who sought to walk with and follow Him as disciples was a righteousness which went beyond the surface, and one that was truly present within the hearts of those who heard and listened to Him speak. You cannot read the words which are found in this portion and passage of Scripture and not be brought face to face with the absolutely incredible and tremendous truth that what Jesus was seeking to accomplish and fulfill during those days was something so much greater, and something much larger than what they could even thinking or imagine. Those during the days and times of Jesus had indeed and had in fact heard one thing, and had been taught one thing, and yet here was Jesus teaching something entirely and altogether different. Jesus acknowledged that which they had heard and that which they had been taught, and yet what He was seeking to bring them to within their hearts and lives was a righteousness which extended beyond merely an external observance to what the Law and the prophets commanded. In fact, this is found on multiple occasions with the four gospel narratives as the whole Law and the prophets would be summarized in two distinct commands which would be followed and adhered to by those who wished to please the living and eternal God—namely, loving the LORD God with all of one’s heart, with all of one’s soul, with all of one’s strength, and loving one’s neighbor as themselves.

            If we are truly willing to be honest with ourselves and with the Holy Spirit we must needs acknowledge that we are being and have been called to a righteousness that is far deeper than mere external observation of that which is found in the Law and the prophets. The Law and the prophets commanded and instructed us not to commit adultery and not to murder, and yet Jesus takes that which is found in the Law and the prophets a step further and strikes at what is at the very heart and core of such realities as adultery and murder. When speaking unto those who gathered themselves before and unto Him during those days and at that time Jesus would declare how they had heard it was said they ought not commit murder, however, Jesus declared unto them that if they were angry at their brother without cause they were themselves guilty of murder. What’s more, is that Jesus declared how they had heard it commanded not to commit adultery, and yet Jesus revealed unto them that those who lusted after a woman within their heart were already guilty of committing adultery. We cannot afford to misunderstand that which Jesus spoke at this particular time, for it forces us to acknowledge and come face to face with a righteousness that is beyond simply an external obedience and adherence to the Law, and a righteousness which actually requires and is intrinsically connected to transformation and sanctification. In all reality, I would dare say that the righteousness which surpassed that of the scribes and the Pharisees, and the righteousness which was of the kingdom was and is intrinsically connected and linked to transformation and sanctification, as this righteousness can only be exercised based on an inner transformation of one’s heart and mind. We cannot think, nor can we even expect to possess a righteousness which surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees without and apart from experiencing an inner transformation of our heart, for only when we are transformed within the very depths of our heart can this righteousness truly be produced within us.

            Even more than all of this we must needs recognize and acknowledge that this righteousness extends beyond simply what the Law and the prophets commands, but also touches how we approach the living and eternal God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. While in the fifth chapter we find Jesus speaking of a righteousness which exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees and touches on matters such as adultery, murder, divorce, loving our enemies, and the like, we find in the sixth chapter Jesus taking this a step further to describe how we approach the living God and Father. You cannot read the words found in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew and not be brought face to face with the incredibly awesome and powerful invitation to experience the transformation of how we draw near to and how we approach God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is in the fifth chapter we learn and discover a righteousness which transcends a mere external observance and obedience to that which is commanded in the Law and the prophets, and it is in the sixth chapter we encounter and are brought face to face with the incredibly awesome and powerful truth surrounding our approach to the living and eternal God through prayer, through fasting and through giving. Jesus was very clear when He declared that unless our righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees, and when we come to the sixth chapter of this New Testament book we encounter and come face to face with Jesus taking this a step further and describing how our righteousness must needs touch and transform our prayer life, our fasting, and even our giving. There is and there must be absolutely no mistake about it when reading these words, for within them we are brought face to face with the fact that our righteousness must needs extend directly within how we draw near to and how we approach prayer, fasting and giving. Oh dear brother, oh dear sister—there is an external righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees which is centered upon performance, recognition and putting on a show for others, while there is another righteousness which is hidden, which is concealed, and which is in secret away from the eyes of men, yet entirely and altogether visible before and unto God the Father.

            As I read and consider the words which are found in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew I can’t help but be brought to the place where I understand that there is a righteousness which seeks to be performance driven—a righteousness which is entirely and altogether based on putting on a show for others. Oh there is a righteousness that is designed to be pleasing in the sight of those before and around us while at the same time caring absolutely nothing about pleasing, honoring and glorifying God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The words which we find here in the sixth chapter are incredibly unique and powerful when you take the time to think about them, for they call and draw our attention to the undeniable truth that there is indeed and there is in fact a righteousness which has absolutely nothing to do with what pleases, glorifies, honors and brings delight and pleasure to the living God, but rather which is seen by men, recognized by men, and praised by men. You cannot read the words found in the sixth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew and not encounter and be brought face to face with the incredibly awesome and powerful truth that the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees was performance and praise driven, as they sought and desired to do everything before the watching eyes of those before and around them—and not only performing their deeds before their eyes, but also receiving praise, honor and glory from those who witnessed and observed their “righteous” acts and deeds. Oh it is with this in mind I now invite you to consider the following words which are found in this portion of text beginning with the first verse of the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:

            “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest almst, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret Himself shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:1-4).

            “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have theireward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debotors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever. Amen. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:5-15).

            “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigured their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness” (Matthew 6:16-23).

            The words which are presented before us within this portion and passage of Scripture are incredibly powerful when you take the time to think about them, for they force us to acknowledge and come face to face with the awesome truth that our righteousness must not only be greater than that of the scribes and the Pharisees, but our righteousness must needs be such that is demonstrated within the secret place before a Father who not only sees in secret, but who rewards openly. If you take the time to read the words which are found in this portion of Scripture you will be brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that this righteousness of the kingdom must needs extend beyond simply an outward and external adherence and obedience to the Law, but must needs also touch the realm of our approach and our drawing near to the living and eternal God. We cannot read the words found in this portion of Scripture and not be brought face to face with the fact that our giving, our praying and our fasting must needs be radically transformed by the kingdom of heaven. Oh we have a great need to realize and understand that our righteousness touches how we draw near to and how we approach the living God and must be such that is neither performance nor praise driven. If there is one thing we must needs realize and understand—not only based on the words which are found in this portion of Scripture, but even the words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of this same New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew—it’s that the everything the scribes and the Pharisees did was to be seen, to be recognized and to be honored and praised of men. You cannot read the four gospel narratives—and specifically the sixth and twenty-third chapters of the gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew—and not discover and uncover that absolutely everything the scribes and the Pharisees did was to be seen and to be noticed by those before and around them. It is absolutely impossible to read the four gospel narratives and not encounter the absolutely incredible truth that the scribes and the Pharisees believed their righteousness pleased and honored the Father who was in heaven—and not only pleased and honored the Father who was in heaven, but also that which received honor and recognition from men within and upon the earth. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew beginning with the first and opening verse:

            “Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to His disciples, saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For thy bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, and love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: For one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselye, and when he is made, ye make him two fold more the child of hell than yourselves. Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? And whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but shosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fools and blind: For whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things theren. And who shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisees, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnessed unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crudify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city; that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Aacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these tings shall come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:1-36).

            I am absolutely and completely convinced we must needs understand the words which are found in this portion of Scripture, for the words which we find here bring us face to face with the tremendous hypocrisy of the scribes and the Pharisees—and not only the hypocrisy of the scribes and the Pharisees, but also of a righteousness which they believed would somehow please the living God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Although they did not acknowledge God as the Father of Jesus, and although they did not acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God, they believed their righteousness was such that pleased, honored, glorified and delighted the living and eternal God. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous and powerful truth surrounding the scribes and the Pharisees, and how their righteousness was not only a righteousness which was merely external and outward in its appearance and focus, but it also sought to be seen, witnessed, praised and honored by men. The righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees was a righteousness which was such that cared absolutely nothing about what brought delight and pleasure to the living God, and was such that merely sought to please their constituents and benefactors. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely awesome and powerful truth surrounding the words which are found in the opening verses of the twelfth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke. It is within this particular portion of Scripture we find Luke writing of Jesus’ warning unto His disciples and followers concerning the leaven of the Pharisees which was hypocrisy. This hypocrisy would be in full swing and would be fully manifested and evidenced in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, as Jesus would instruct His disciples to do whatever the scribes and Pharisees bid them to do, but when it came to doing as they did—thus participating in their righteousness—they were to abstain and refrain from.

            What makes this all the more intriguing and interesting when you take the time to think about and consider it is when you consider the words which are found in the latter portion of the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke. It is in the latter portion and half of this chapter we are brought face to face with the awesome and powerful truth that Jesus indicted the scribes and the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. The words which we find in the latter portion of the eleventh chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke must needs be understood and recognized, for they are another account of the words which Jesus spoke directly unto His disciples and followers. It’s quite interesting that when you read the words found in the eleventh chapter you find them seemingly triggered by one of the Pharisees observing how Jesus had not first washed before eating dinner. It would be in direct response to this Jesus would immediately declare unto the Pharisees how they made clean the outside of the cup and the platter, while the inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. It is something worth thinking about and considering when reading these words, for these words call and draw our attention to the incredibly awesome and powerful truth surrounding the scribes and the Pharisees, and how although they appeared clean on the outward, and although they were perceived by some to possess a righteousness which was pleasing in the sight of the living God, their righteousness was nothing more than a farce, a façade and smoke and mirrors. Jesus made it perfectly and abundantly clear when speaking unto His disciples and followers that they needed to beware of the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees, for their righteousness was such that was steeped in hypocrisy—and not only hypocrisy, but also men pleasing. The scribes and the Pharisees believed themselves to be those who pleased the living God and yet the truth of the matter is that the only ones they truly pleased were themselves. In other words, the only opinion which truly mattered to the scribes and the Pharisees was that of their own. Everything they did was for show and for pretense, and there was not anything they did that was not designed to be seen and viewed by others that they might receive praise, glory and honor from them.

            Within the four gospel narratives written by the gospel authors we find Jesus seemingly contrasting the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees with the righteousness of the kingdom—and not only this, but also calling into question the hypocrisy of the scribes and the Pharisees. What’s more, is that also within the four gospel narratives you will find Jesus speaking of the leaven of the Pharisees which was more than simply their hypocrisy, but was also their teaching. Oh you cannot read the four gospel narratives written by the gospel authors and not encounter the fact that Jesus indicted the scribes and the Pharisees for a righteousness which did not please, honor and glorify the living God, as well as warned against their hypocrisy and teaching. It is in the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative which was written by the apostle Matthew we find Jesus speaking of this hypocrisy and directly connecting it to their teaching, for Jesus instructed His disciples and followers to do all that the scribes and the Pharisees bid them to do, however, when it came to doing according to what they themselves did, Jesus warned them against doing so. In all reality, Jesus directly linked the teaching of the scribes and the Pharisees with their hypocrisy, for the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees was such that angered and displeased the living and eternal God. The scribes and the Pharisees thought and believed that their righteousness was such that pleased and honored the living God, and yet the truth of the matter, however, is that their righteousness was nothing more than a farce and a façade which was focused solely on men pleasing and being seen and honored by men. Jesus warned and cautioned His disciples against the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, for regardless of the message of their garments, regardless of the message of their prayers, regardless the message of their fasting, regardless the message of their giving, and regardless the message of their teaching, their lives were the ultimate message which truly revealed the nature of their hearts.

 

            Oh I sit here thinking about and considering this particular reality, and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the fact that we might believe there is a certain message that is being portrayed and presented based on our prayers and our fasting, and yet the message of our lives and how we conduct ourselves in this life is the greater and greatest message that is presented and produced from our lives. We would like to think that the message portrayed from our prayers, from our giving and from our fasting is such that is the true litmus test of whether or not we please the living and eternal God, and yet Jesus made it very clear that prayers, fasting and giving don’t automatically mean that we are walking in a manner which pleases, honors and glorifies the living and eternal God. Oh there is something truly remarkable and powerful about the words which are found in this particular portion of Scripture, for within them we are brought to the place where we recognize that while our prayers which might be heard, while our fasting which might be seen, and while our giving which might be received might present one message—the message from our lives and how we live within this generation can paint an entirely different picture and message to those before and around us. It is something worth thinking about and considering when reading the words which are found in this portion of Scripture, for the words we find here bring us to the place where we must needs acknowledge whether or not we are truly walking in a manner that pleases, honors and glorifies the living God. Jesus acknowledged that the scribes and the Pharisees did indeed fast, pray and give, and yet how these practices were designed and performed—not to bring pleasure, delight, glory and honor to the living God who was in heaven, but rather to be seen of men that they themselves might receive honor, glory and praise. OH there is something truly dangerous when reading the words which Jesus spoke concerning the scribes and the Pharisees, for rather than seeking to please the living God they sought to please others. As a direct result of seeking to please others they would receive glory and honor from them, and would ultimately seek to exalt themselves over and above the living God.

            It is something truly worth thinking about and considering when reading these words how Jesus warned of the leaven of the Pharisees which was hypocrisy, and while it would be easy to simply point out this leaven, this cancer, and this atrocity as solely being connected to the Pharisees, we must needs acknowledge that it is possible for this leaven to be found within our own hearts. It is indeed and is in fact entirely possible for this leaven to be found within our hearts and within our lives as we give ourselves over to an external obedience and adherence to the Law and the prophets while completely denying and ignoring the inward transformation that is so desperately needed within us. Perhaps one of the greatest dangers of the leaven of the Pharisees was that they believed they could please, honor and glorify the living God simply and solely by an external obedience ot the Law and the prophets, while at the same time ignoring the transformation that was needed within their hearts and lives. We do ourselves a great disservice when we think and believe that the leaven of the Pharisees is simply and solely found in them and that it is not possible for it to be manifested within our hearts and lives. There is a great danger we face within our hearts and lives when we think and believe that we can and are somehow exempt from this leaven of hypocrisy. What’s more, is that I am fully and completely convinced that directly linked and connected to this leaven of hypocrisy is the danger of judging others based on their actions and what we perceive within them. What made the leaven of the Pharisees so incredibly dangerous was not only the fact that their actions and deeds betrayed their words and teaching, but that they felt and believed they were qualified to judge, condemn and accuse others. The Pharisees believed they were somehow the standard of obedience and righteousness, and as a direct result of this they sat in the seat of Moses casting and passing judgment upon others. If there is one danger surrounding hypocrisy we must needs recognize, be aware of and guard ourselves against it’s that of judging others—and not only judging others, but also feeling we are qualified to judge others. Oh what we must needs realize about hypocrisy is that not only is it a cancer which spreads throughout our lives, but it also opens us up to judgment, to condemnation, and to accusation. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew, as well as the words which are found in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke:

            “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shall thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5).

            “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again” (Luke 6:37-38).

            As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely and incredibly interesting to read the words which are found in the seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. It is within this particular portion of scripture we not only find Jesus warning against being those who judge and cast judgment against others, but we also find Jesus using the same word “hypocrite” in direct connection with it. I am absolutely and completely convinced we have a great need to pay attention to the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples and followers, for when He warned them to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, I am convinced He was doing more than simply calling them to be mindful of its presence. I would dare argue and contend that what Jesus was truly seeking to produce within the hearts and lives of those who sought to walk with and follow Him as His disciples a powerful warning to not allow this leaven to spread unto them. What’s more, is that I would even dare say that Jesus was warning His disciples and followers to not only beware that this leaven spread unto them, but also that this leaven be permitted to find root and a resting place within their hearts and lives. It was indeed true Jesus sought to warn His disciples concerning the hypocrisy of the scribes and the Pharisees, and yet it was about so much more than just calling and drawing their attention to the hypocrisy that was present within them. In all reality, I would dare say that Jesus was doing something so much greater than simply indicting the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy, for Jesus was also confronting the scribe and Pharisee that might have still existed within the hearts and minds of those who sought to walk with and follow Him. There is not a doubt in my mind that what Jesus deliberately and essentially sought to do with these words was confront the Pharisee that is present within the hearts of His disciples and followers, for anyone could become a Pharisee within their hearts and minds.

            It would be incredibly easy to think and consider that a Pharisee was simply one who was dressed in long flowing garments and robes and could be easily identified, however, the truth of the matter is that there is a Pharisee that is far more dangerous and far more deadly than those which were present during the days of Jesus. I am absolutely and completely convinced there are Pharisees which are far more deadly and dangerous than those which were present during the days of Jesus, and those Pharisees are such which are present within our own hearts and within our own minds. With these words Jesus was seeking to do more than simply indict the physical Pharisees which were present during those days, for Jesus was seeking to confront the unseen and hidden Pharisee. Oh it was indeed true there were those Pharisees who were found in plain sight and which could be heard and seen of men, however, there were other Pharisees who weren’t as discernable and weren’t as recognizable. THE HIDDEN PHARISEE! CONFRONTING THE HIDDEN PHARISEE! In fact, this Pharisee was found within the hearts of the disciples when they not only debated and disputed among themselves who was the greatest, but also when James and John sought to call down fire upon the Samaritans in the village which rejected and did not receive Jesus. This Pharisee was found within the hearts of James and John when they asked Jesus that one of them be seated at His right hand and another be seated at His left hand. This hidden Pharisee was such that was found within the hearts of James and John when they sought to stifle, silence and rebuke one who wasn’t a part of their company whom they saw casting out devils in the name of Jesus.

I am absolutely and completely convinced that there is a Pharisee that is far more dangerous and deadly than one which was present during the days of Jesus, for those Pharisees were easy to spot and easy to recognize. When and as we think about Pharisees within our present day and generation it must be understood that they are not as easily recognizable and discernable as they were during the days of Jesus. During Jesus’ day they wore long and flowing garments which they elaborately and extravagantly garnished to give an outward appearance of righteousness and obedience before and unto others. The truth of the matter, however, is that just as false prophets can indeed be known by their fruits, so also can the hidden Pharisees be known and recognized by their fruits. FALSE PROPHETS AND HIDDEN PHARISEES! CONFRONTING FALSE PROPHETS AND HIDDEN PHARISEES! We would be incredibly naïve to think and consider for a moment that Pharisees only existed during the days of Jesus, and that Pharisees cannot be present among us within our generation and within our days. The truth and underlying matter is that just as we can know false prophets by their fruit, so also can we know and discern hidden Pharisees by their fruit. We must needs recognize and understand the absolutely awesome and powerful truth that perhaps the greatest Pharisee is not that one which is easily discernable and recognizable as they were during Jesus’ day, but one that is hidden and concealed and which has been created by allowing the leaven of hypocrisy to find lodging and root within their hearts and minds. I am absolutely and completely convinced when reading the words found in this portion of Scripture that Jesus wasn’t simply warning His disciples and followers concerning those Pharisees which they could see with their eyes and hear with their ears, but was warning and cautioning them against becoming a Pharisee themselves—and not only become a Pharisee, but also allowing the hidden Pharisee to be present within their own hearts and minds. The question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing to not only confront the hidden Pharisee that is present within us, but have the hidden Pharisee eradicated, extricated, exposed and once and for all eviscerated. It is with this in mind I leave you with the following words which are found in the seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:

            “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:13-23).

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