Text: Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that woe and well-being proceed? (Lamentation 3:38)
Definition of Hypocrisy
Hypocrisy is the practice of professing beliefs or virtues that one does not possess. The Greek concept of the word ‘hypocrisy’ hupokrisis (Greek) means ‘stage-playing or acting.’ In other word hypocrisy is the habit of staging a good presentation of oneself falsely to impress people when the true real-life style of the person is somehow despicable. Virtually everyone in the secular life practice this evil one way or the other. It is the stock in trade in the hands of the politicians. Most of them are bounce of pretenders. They are professional actors outside the four corners of Hollywood. Many people will grin broadly when they see you in pretense to express that they are pleasant individuals; and that you are welcome but deep down their heart they hate your gut. It is unimaginable that some people practice this evil in their family. Some couples share the same bed but their hearts may be far away from each other. They may be at each others throat in their bed room but immediately their children come in they will pretend that all is well. They always say, “We do not want to hurt the kids,” but they can afford to hurt the Heavenly God with their quarrelsome and deceptive behaviors towards their family. In no time their wickedness always locate them and the home will eventually be broken completely and the poor and the innocent children bear the brunt of their hypocrisy. Some practice the evil in the office. They pretend to be very hard working when the supervisor is around but as soon as the boss left they fall back to their usual lazy and lackadaisical self-styled individuals.
Hypocrisy is the lapse of inconsistency—inconsistent to self-worth, to the loved ones and even to the Heavenly Father in our relationship with Him. The only thing that is consistent about hypocrisy is the deception and its primary purpose is to impress someone. In addition some perpetrate this evil to justify a certain wrong-doing. This subject is wide and it covers a lot of activities of man because the evil practice had eaten deep into the fabric of the life of humanity. We shall narrow the discussion down to how it affects our relationship with God in our Christian profession.
Hypocrisy in religion manifests itself in an inconsistency between external religious activity and religious profession. The concept of hypocrisy in religion is when we professed to practice the law of God according to His commandment as an outward show of religious whereas the core of ones heart is far from the righteousness that the word of God demanded. Jesus gave three instances that demonstrated the act of hypocrisy among the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The noble religious leaders in Israel then love to impress the people around them instead of God with their religious activities. When they give to charity, they make it know to the public in order to win appreciation of the people; so that they may be regarded as a pious man and little did they knew that by this, they lost the acceptability of Almighty God. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. (Matthew 6:2) Many people are guilty of this. Nothing is wrong in communicating to the needs of the needy in the way of charitable offering, but the motive of some is intently to show off. And in addition because of excessive of speech, some people do not know when they announce their charitable deeds that supposed to remain between them and God who had prompted them to give to the poor.
Praying is one of the important gestures of worshiping and fellowshiping with God. When this sacred act is exercised, it must be done in such a way that our supplications will be acceptable to the Living God. ping with God. n the sight of the King of Babylon. owed. When some people are praying, they love to stand in the open place and the street corner where they can be seen. They pray loud to impress people, not necessarily according to the expected contrite heart with which they are expected to approach God Almighty. In most cases they may be praying and their minds may be somewhere else. “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” (Matthew 6:11) If anyone that prays to impress a person or show off that he can pray better than others claim that he is praying to God who sees the hearts of everyone, who is deceiving who here?
Fasting with praying is one of the sure ways we can cause the mighty hands of God to manifest miracles among the children of God. It had a long record of successful outcome in solving the problems of mankind. There are many prominent people in the scripture that fasted and called upon the name of God that experienced express and swift answers. Daniel fasted for twenty one days and he received his heart desire. Queen Esther and the community of Jews in Shushan fasted for three days to call upon the name of God that God might deliver them from Hamman and as a spiritual preparation before Esther approach the throne of King Artaxexes. The people of God had their victory. Nehemiah sought the face of God with prayer and fasting, he received a divine favor in the sight of the King of Babylon. Jesus fasted for forty-days, the four gospel books testified to the miracles that followed. Nothing is wrong with fasting and praying, but when the motive of this act of consecration is to impress man, then purpose of fasting and praying is defeated. “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. (Matthew 6:16) When we wait upon the Lord with prayer and fasting, we seek the face of our Heavenly Father that He may divinely intervene in our affairs. In effect, we are telling God that we have a strong reason to seek for His help. Therefore disfiguring of face during fasting or announcing it to populace is a way to impress others that one is performing a holy rite.
CHECKLIST OF HYPOCRITICAL CHARACTERS
Hypocrisy in religion is a situational problem among the believers. It is not a problem of the ungodly alone. But when this hidden but negative character made its ways to the fold of the Christians, it needs to be dealt with immediately. The essence of addressing hypocrisy in religion is to expose the cankerworm that destroys the fabric of the relationship of Christians with God so that the children of God will be able to identify all the sin, isolate the evil characters and prayerfully adjust our ways of life until they will completely be eliminated from our godly characters. The general nature of this evil character can be compared to mistletoe plant.
Mistletoe is a parasitic plant. Unlike other plants that grow on the soil, mistletoe grows on the branch of a tree. It root penetrates on the branch to steal the nutrients from it until the branch becomes weak. It has leaves and produces flowers and seed. When you see it afar off, you will be thinking that it is part of the plant. But a farmer can pick this plant apart from its host. The same way, hypocrisy is a hidden sin that present pretense of righteous behavior to impress people but God who knows the intent of the heart of every one can easily pick apart any element of hypocrisy in the behaviors of His children. The following sub-topics can help us to identify the ugly element of hypocrisy in our Christian life.
Professing but not practicing
Although God wants every man to come to the saving knowledge of the Savior but He does not force or impose salvation upon anyone. When man was still living in his self-deluded sinful life, the mercy of God was patiently waiting, in the hope that soon and very soon, the sinner’s inner eyes will be enlightened and he will seek the face of the Heavenly King. His arms of mercy were ready to enfold us in love. When finally we come to the Lord, angel rejoices for every single soul that accepts salvation. If after we have received Christ but the works of our hands and our behaviors does not reflect our profession—that is hypocrisy. So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them. (Ezekiel 33:31-32) God revealed the stealth of these evil behaviors through Prophet Ezekiel. The people profess to belong to the righteous camp, they sit with the children of God but do not practice the act of righteousness. Most of the time you see some people with the bible or wear the golden chain with the symbol of cross. Some even wear the priest garment but does not possess the characters of the priest. They always come to the Bible study program to seek the wisdom of God but do not practice the truth that the word of God revealed. They showed interest in the things of the God but their hearts is far away from God.
The primary purpose of drawing near to God is to experience Him—to understand His Holy nature, to know about His righteous and faithful characters, to understand His immeasurable and His unimaginable mightiness, to experience the endurance of His mercy, the divine love He exhibits towards everyone and the Excellency of His judgment—in order to emulate Him and to worship Him according to the revelationary knowledge of Him that we possess. But sadly some after spending considerable time in the presence of the Lord, they leave to practice occultism and witchcraft. And again these spiritual wolves would return in to the fold of children of God in sheep clothing. “Therefore the Lord said: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men, therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work among this people, a marvelous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.” (Isaiah 29:13-14) Matthew 15:8 This scripture passage is more of a challenge to every believer to weigh his Christians works on the scale of righteousness of God. Many Christians are not stealing today because the government law prohibits it not necessarily because they observe the commandment of God. That is why the sin of adultery and other worldly sins that are done secretly are still manifesting in the midst of Christian fold. God promised these evil people a ‘marvelous work and a wonder.’ The marvelous work and a wonder is not in terms of blessing because their evil works does not justify blessing of God, rather, it is a devastating judgment of God. Imagine when the wisdom of wise became perish and understanding of a prudent man became elusive. In order word God is saying here, that He will prove to the deceptive minded people that He is the Lord, when their counsel is turned into foolishness.
Apparently zealous in the things of God
Zealousness is the expected standard of Christian’s activities in the vineyard of God. Great men of God exhibited zealousness in their services and were commended for it. Abraham demonstrated zealousness when he ran to meet three supposedly strangers at the heat of the day and invited them for lunch. In the 18th Chapter of Genesis there are four places where the word that is close to ‘swiftness’ was used to describe the actions of Abraham. It was a clear indication that Abraham zealousness in doing good characterized those swift actions.
He hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet the three strangers standing nearby, he bowed low to the ground and offered them an invitation of humility mingled with kindness that a right thinking individual who know the value of honor, will not reject. “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way . . .” They responded as expected, “Very well, do as you say.” Abraham hurried into the tent to set in motion his plan of hospitality. He told Sarah, “Quick, get three seahs of fine flour, and knead it, and bake some bread. He ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant to prepare it.
The word “choice” and “tender” are qualifying the best that Abraham selected for entertaining the strangers. He thought he was giving the best to a stranger, little did he know that he was giving the best to God. He brought milk along with the food he ordered to be prepared for the three strangers. Think about it brethren, the choice of fresh cool milk for the supposedly strangers—what a choice drink in the hot humidity of the desert encroached region! It was a right choice for the right time and for the right people. Above all, the Bible revealed that while they were eating, he stood near them under a tree waiting on them! He anticipated that they might need anything, or perhaps in his careful observation, if he perceived that they needed something, he might make it available. He did all these in good faith, without any clue that he was entertaining the Creator of Heaven and Earth.
But when the end result of apparent zealousness of righteous acts of man is intense wickedness towards others God have problems in correlating the two because right and wrong does not match. That was why God opened the Book of Isaiah 58 with “Cry aloud, spare not; lift up your voice like a trumpet,” because the issue at hand is very important. It also revealed the intense abhorrent of God about hypocrisy. “Cry aloud, spare not; lift up your voice like a trumpet; tell My people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek Me daily, and delight to know My ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching God. (Isaiah 58:1-2) In this chapter of the Book of Isaiah, God was speaking about the type of fasting He expected of His people. Everyone knows that fasting is one of the Christian doctrines to receive blessing from God through prayer. “However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21) The same fasting and praying was the Israel engaged in when the prophecy came for the people of God that their apparent righteous zealousness is an abomination before God if the poor are oppressed, if the bonds are not loosen, if the yoke are not broken and if the poor are not taken care of according to the commandment of God. “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:6-7)
Form vs. Substance
Having form of godliness but denies the power thereof. “… having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away.” (II Timothy 3:5)
Regarding tradition more than the word of God.
In every nation and tribe of the world there are unwritten customary laws guiding our moral behaviors of man. Mainly moral-codes are generally learned from our parents. It ranges from hygiene rules to ethical customary regulations. When we are growing up we were taught to wash our hands after using the bathrooms. We were also told to wash our hands before coming to the dining table for our meal. The idea behind this might have been to prevent contamination of our food. Moms always yell, ‘Stop picking nose!’ She will also say, brush your teeth as first hygiene rule in morning and last thing before you sleep. Even in our relationship with other people we were taught to be nice to other and be courteous in our approach to other people because respect is reciprocal. Similar commandment relating to this is also in the scripture. In addition, before we are tuned to the wisdom of God, it has been part of the ethical rules in the community that stealing other people’s properties is not right and the any act of adultery is wrong. Some are so good in keeping all these moral and ethical laws to the extents that they assumed that they are perfect individuals. This is why some claim self justification and considered themselves as righteous people because they always brag that they do not commit any sin. There is nothing wrong in keeping moral and ethical customary laws. But observation of moral law alone is not a yardstick to measure our righteousness in our Christian life.
There are so many traditional celebrations in the church of Jesus Christ today that has no direct commandment in the Bible. In the United States, traditional feast like Mother’s Day and the Father’s are elaborately celebrated in the Church in the month of May and June respectively every year. Although there is nothing wrong about the feast because it fosters good relationship between husband and wife as well as their children. In addition, it gives the church an opportunity to address the important issues relating to family and at the same time encourages the fathers and the mothers in the church about their family responsibilities but the truth is that there is no commandment to celebrate this feast in the Bible. Christmas and Easter—the multi-billion dollars celebrations all over the world are also in the category of traditions of men because there is no direct commandment to the Church that these feast should be celebrated. However it is widely accepted in the church because of the fact that some churches used the Christmas season to address the glorious birth of our Savior Jesus Christ to the congregation and also make the church to reflect about His sorrowful death on the Cross during Easter. The only inconsistency here is that some of these churches that celebrate Mother’s and Father’s Day, Christmas and Easter does not observe the Lord Supper which was a doctrinal issue of the church and was also a direct commandment to all Christians in the Bible. In addition most of these churches do not make any effort to observe the greatest commission—to reach out to people that have not known God with the gospel messages. Which is greater, the traditional feasts or the salvation of the soul of men and obedience to the commandment of God?
Again, not all the traditions that had been handed down to us by our parents are righteous when these traditions are compared with the word of God. This is why we must not build our Christian life upon the foundation of traditional laws. There is no objection to uphold any of the traditional moral and ethical codes that are in line with the word of God. But where there is conflict between the customary traditions and scriptural laws, the word of God should prevail. Anything short of this is tantamount to hypocrisy in our Christian life. The scripture is not silent about this. “Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:1-3) You will notice that the question of the Pharisees received another question as response. The idea behind this is that, Jesus Christ is putting to the Pharisees to judge this issue for themselves. Perhaps you are wondering why this is so. Think about it. God is our Creator. He has been existing from the beginning before man is created. The so called traditional elders are byproduct of creative wisdom of man. The divine wisdom and understanding of God that manifested in His various commandments to guide man in law of righteousness is not anyway comparable with the limited traditions of elders that is only recognized narrowly in a section of a tribal unit.
Exact in minor issues, but neglecting important duties.
All aspects of righteousness are entrenched in the Law of God that Christians are admonished to obey. None of the commandments of God is optional. All is mutually inclusive. Even if the law of God does not expressly guide man in a certain issue of life, the principle of the various law of God will guide him in the right direction. Spiritual hypocrisy occurs when a Christian is selective in the righteousness and holiness he practices. The hypocrites cannot claim that they love God. The scripture spoke loud and clear about this topic during the time of Judaism in Israel as it is still speaking to all Christian today and it says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24) It is good to be mindful of little things and pay a careful attention to details but you cannot afford to ignore obvious righteous commandment of God. If you are paying your tithe regularly and you always place a large bill in the offering box, glory be to God, but that is not the only law of God that you are to obey. If you are always being seen with Bible, reading and trying to understand the precepts of the law of God this is marvelous. Or on the other hand, you have graduated from the level of babes in the Lord that have been living upon the milk, and now you are crushing the bones—seeking the in-depth knowledge of the word in order to enrich yourself with the wisdom of God and to impart the divine wisdom unto others, that is equally splendid but this is not all that God expects you to do. Are you living your Christian life according to the precept of the word of God that you are reading? If not, that is hypocrisy!
If you are in the prayer ministry and you are praying forcefully with the voice of an angel, and have victoriously fought many battles on your knees, honestly that is superb. Bless your soul! But that is not the only commandment you are to obey. Do you show mercy unto the needy ones around you? You cannot afford to shut your ears from the cry of the poor. Your merciful heart must reflect your prayerful mouth for the needy. In addition, your helpful hands must reflect and execute the physical desire of your heart in ministering to the needy. “Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard.” (Proverbs 21:13) Do you weigh your word and actions on the scale of integrity of God? Is your yes, yes and your no, no according to the word of God? Christianity is all purpose-balanced life. You cannot be participating one act of righteousness and be living in another act of sinfulness simultaneously. That will amount to hypocrisy. Consistency in righteous living is the standard of God for all His children. You cannot be selective in the righteousness you practice or in the commandment of God you obey. All commandment of God must be obeyed and your holiness must not fall short of the expectation of God.
Seeking only outward purity
When a shortcoming is revealed in the life of Christian it will somehow prompt an instant correction unless the individual decides to ignore it stubbornly. For instance every time we look in to the mirror, we see ourselves from the point of view of another person. At times, we do not like the picture we see in the mirror. Perhaps some of the particles of the food we ate smear on our mouth. Perhaps the nightly drooling from our mouth is now dry and spread by the side of mouth. Perhaps the inflammation from our eyes is still hanging out there in the corner of our eyes. We don’t always leave all these uncorrected. Instantly we employ the creative power within us to initiate necessary correction of our outlook to reflect what we want people to see in us. Women are expert in the art of self-examination in the mirror. Only God knows the number of times they look into their mirror in a day. They are also wonderful in painting the picture of self to suit the way they want to look. They will first of all diligently deal with all the dark spots on their faces—the bumps and pimples are filled with a suitable coverage foundation powder and top it with to-match cheek color powder for proper blending. They perform magic with the lip liner and lip gloss, eyeliner and mascara. What you see in the end is a dazzling beautiful appearance of their feminine faces. Perhaps some men are laughing at these intricacies of women beauty life styles and saying within themselves thank God they don’t have to do the same. Wait until you read this. Some men with broken teeth replaced it with artificial tooth. Some men wear toupee to cover the appearance of their bald head. In fact there is nothing wrong in covering your physical spot with any available care as much as God has given you ability to do. The only thing that is not proper is when you take care of your outward physical appearance only but do nothing with your inward spiritual blemishes—the greed and wickedness—that is in your Christian life that is begging for your attention and correction. You cannot afford to be like the deceptive Pharisees that only care about their outward appearance—the way they appeared to the public deceptively as righteous individual but inwardly like a rotten sepulcher. “Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.” (Luke 11:39) The word of God is at your disposal and the servant of God in your church is hammering in your ear every time the necessity of the spiritual correction you need to make. The Pocket Minister is now reminding you today that you need to deal with the stain in your spiritual life.
Glorying in appearance only
“For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart.” (II Corinthians 5:12)
Zealous in making proselytes
With unparalleled determination here and there, some labor in the Lord in terms of evangelism, in terms of ministration to bring people to knowledge of Jesus Christ. We also discovered that among the people that are going to the church, some come to make numbers, some come purposely for personal ulterior motives that is completely different from worshiping God and learn righteousness at the feet of Jesus Christ. Some were noted to live a notorious live that does not depict Christianity. We wonder why bad seeds are found on purported good trees. This question leads us to the story of growing cocoon. The cocoon is the third stage of the metamorphosis of butterfly namely—the egg, caterpillar, cocoon or pupa and lastly imago or adult butterfly. The crucial stage of butterfly development is the cocoon stage. It is an interesting illustration because it describes the process of salvation of some people. When the cocoon grew to the advance stage, a certain opening will appear on it. This opening is the door through which the developed butterfly will eventually emerge and begin to fly. The essence of the tiny opening on the cocoon is to allow air to come in and dry the body of the butterfly while the cocoon acted as protective shell until the butterfly will be ready and able to fly. But over ambitious farmers do in some cases help the poor butterfly to open the door of the cocoon wide and made it come out before the right time for the butterfly. The end result of this, is that it becomes unusually heavy, not strong enough to stand the excessive heat of the atmosphere, eventually it became prey for birds and other animals.
If expectation of harvest in the field of evangelism does not justify the efforts, there are two stages you need to check. Nothing is wrong with the seed. You only need to check the life of the sower and the type of the ground the seed is sown. If the sower sew diligently on a good ground, the harvest will yield the expected folds. But if a spiritual lopsidedly sower sow a seed of gospel on a good ground there is likelihood that the harvest will reflect the life of the lopsided sower. Since discipline was not in place at the beginning of mission, spiritual indiscipline may be its likely outcome. Jesus Christ reflect on this scenario and He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” (Matthew 23:15) What is the conduct of your life in relation to the work of evangelism that God had committed in your hand? Does your conduct as a Christian reflect the Christ you professed? Can those who were looking at you as their spiritual father or mother behold the beauty of Jesus Christ in your life? It is clear that some people fashion their lifestyle in accordance with the life of their spiritual mentors. Paul was so sure of his relationship in the Lord, he enjoined the brethren to be his example. “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.” (Philippians 3:17) He also admonished Timothy how he should conduct himself in the Lord saying, “For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. These things command and teach. Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” (I Timothy 4:10-13)
WOE OF JESUS CHRIST UPON THE HYPOCRITES
But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. (Matthew 23:13) Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered. (Luke 11:52) And He said, Woe to you also, lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. (Luke 11:46)
The three woes of Jesus Christ against the hypocrite scribes and Pharisees in the above passages addressed different subjects but somehow were interrelated in principle. It reminded me of the story of a dog in the manger. Manger is the house of horse, the animals that eats hays. Manger is also the place where these horse foods were hanged. But a dog that does not eat hay took over the entrance of the manger and would not allow the hungry animals that live on hay to go in for their lunch. This simple story depicted the characters the Scribes and Pharisees in the way they practice their Judaism religion then. They professed to be serving God according to the law but in actuality they were far from the standard expectation of God. They raised standard that the Gentiles Christians must be circumcised physically according to the commandment given Abraham the forefather of Israel before they could be accepted as Christian.
Today characters of some Christians is very close to the hypocrite Pharisees and the old Jewish lawyers in that they set standards in the church that makes it difficult for new convert to cope with. They lay emphasis on the necessity of paying tithes and offerings than reminding the brethren of the necessity of living a righteous and holy life so that they will not be found wanted in the kingdom of God at last. Jesus Christ says, “Come unto me all ye that labor and heavy laden, I will give you rest.” Can it be said then that anyone that cannot afford the tithe and offering should not venture to come to the Lord? I am not saying that brethren should ignore the commandment that relates to tithe and offering in the Church because certainly fund is needed to effectively run the programs of the Church. What I am saying is that the cart must not be put before the horse. Brethren should be adequately taught and well equipped in the understanding of the word of God and the necessity to practice them in all ramifications. Paying tithe and offering will not be seen as extortion to the new believer but rather as obedience to the law of God if adequate teaching of the word and clear understanding of the principle is well established.
They always emphasis the need to invite friends and neighbor to the church instead of encouraging the congregation to obey the commandment of Jesus Christ to go out and preach the gospel to all people. The poor are invited in love to partake in charity food pantry and sharing of clothing but were not fed with the word of God and were not told about the love of God that brought about the free food. Although nothing is wrong with inviting friends to the church and ministration to the needs of the poor but this singular effort is not equal to the commandment relating to evangelism. When the children of God were in the field of evangelism, the message of the minister is always about the good news of new life in Christ. It is not exactly the same as the sermon message that relates to our day-to-day observation of the truth we need to know in the Lord. It was also clear from the Bible that most of the miracles of Jesus Christ and the disciples took place in the field of evangelism. No wonder today we do not witness so many miracles like of old because we employ man-made method against an established plan of God to lead people to His kingdom.
It is very common among some Christian today that baptism is no longer an important part of the processes of our salvation. They say only believe and that is all. This is only partly true. Certainly one needs to believe the word of God in order to execute all the commandments relating to the belief. The scripture emphasis that believer should acknowledge that he is a sinner and at the same time ask God for forgiveness, openly confess with their mouth that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God. The scripture also emphasis that the believer should be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Jesus told Nichodemus, “Except a man is born of water and of the Spirit He cannot enter the kingdom of God.” He was baptized by John the Baptist in River Jordan in order to fulfill all righteousness. After all these, there is an express commandment that we should observe all things as Jesus Christ had taught us in the Bible—meaning that we must seriously take Christianity as a way of life—that is, we must be a practicing Christians. We must seek the face of God in praying and in reading the scripture to seek understanding of the wisdom of God and tap from the abundance of His provision.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.
The scribes were usually employed by the widows as the estate planner. Because of their apparent godliness, of the Scribes and Pharisees, the poor widow thought they had hired the services of someone who will exercise diligence in duty as well as honesty in managing the estate of the dead. But rather instead of honesty the scribes used both their legal skill and apparent godliness to defraud the poor widows who under normal circumstances deserved to be helped and comforted. Despite all these, in pretense they still engaged in long prayers to indicate that they are truly religious men. In our days similar things are occurring in the life of some Christian. Some skilled Christian secure contracts with people who perceived that because of their supposedly Christian faith, they will do good job and at the same time be honest in charging reasonable amount for their services. In all works of life, we have Christian in various skillful professions to serve people. There are Christian doctors, Christian lawyers, Christian real estates etc, and many people hire the services of these Christian brethren because they thought the Christian professionals will conduct their services under the fear of God and be honest by charging fairly for their services. There is no doubt that some faithful brethren have been upholding integrity of their faith in rendering diligent service to others not necessarily because of the remuneration but because of the fear of God in their hearts. I know some doctors, out of mercy and love of God, after treating patients they go an extra miles in using their own money to purchase medicines for the poor and needy patients that cannot afford the cost. Some organized charitable medical personnel team that travel to poor nations with their own funds, medical equipment and medicine to render various free medical services to helpless patients. But many have lost the heart of mercy, and money—the god of mammon had blind-folded their mind. This is not suggesting that skilled and professional brethren should be rendering their services free especially when it is not convenient but the blending of integrity in service, fairness in charges and the fear of God should be their watchword. Anything short of these will reduce their conduct to the inconsistencies of the Scribes and the Pharisees who apart from charging their brethren excessively, they failed to render an excellent service to their brethren who trusted them wholeheartedly in the name of God. If no one knows the way you have been sneakily defrauding your brother hypocritically God knows.
Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.’ Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold? And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.’ Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it. He, who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it. And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it. (Matthew 23:16-22)
One needs to understand the point of view of Jesus Christ in this passage in order to understand the essence of the hypocrisy of the Scribes and the Pharisees who were misleading the Israelites in their time. The temple of God in Israel was not idea of man. It was an awesome plan of God to create a forum of meeting with His people. God gave Moses specific instructions concerning the temple, about its architectural plan, its dimensions, how it is to be built, and the materials to be used. In addition, God gave a specific instruction to him about the constructions of the items to be brought to the temple. Each of the items is placed in a specific position in and outside the temple according to the instruction of God. The Ark of God was placed in the Holy of Holies—that is, the inner compartment of the temple. The altar of the temple was placed just before the veiled entrance of the Holy of Holies. The Table of Shew bread and the Menorah Lamp were placed in the outer compartment of the Temple. The Laver for washing the offering and the Altar of the Burnt Offering were all situated in the open courtyard of the temple according to the specific instruction of God. The last and the only living item of the temple was the priest. The priest was adequately prepared to serve the table of the Lord in the Temple. God commanded that atonement must be made for the temple and the priest for seven days and at the same time be consecrated in holiness. After this the temple will become holy and whatever touches it will be holy. “So you shall consecrate Aaron and his sons.” (Exodus 29:9) For seven days you must make atonement for the altar and consecrate it. The altar will become especially holy; whatever touches the altar will become holy. (Exodus 29:37) Certainly it will not be difficult for you to judge that the temple of the living God is greater than any items of gold or any item of offering that the people brought upon the altar. The presence of God in the temple makes the temple and the item on its altar holy. The Scribe and the Pharisees told people that no law was violated and no one will be held accountable if any one swear an oath by the temple of God and fail to honor it, but if a person swear an oath by the gold coin placed on the altar in the temple of God, the individual will be obliged to perform it. You will now understand that Jesus Christ was speaking from the righteous point of view when he called the Scribe and the Pharisees blind guides for discounted the holiness of the temple and misled the people.
The Church or wherever we hallow and designate as the temple of the Living God is the melting pot between divinity and humanity. The moment the name of the Lord is called upon in the gathering of the saint, the Heavenly Father is in their midst. “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20) A priority must be apportioned on this holy place far more beyond whatever is brought into it. Ordinarily, man may be looking at a Church as a structure of stone and concrete but when God occupies His preeminence position in the temple and in the midst of His people, His holiness has saturated every square inch of the space in the temple.
That is why orderliness is important in the presence of Holy God in His temple. It is expected that no one can just misbehave in the gathering where the head of a nation is on seat. Greater than the earthly president, earthly king or prime minister of a nation is the God Almighty that occupies Holy temple. No despicable activities should be allowed in the temple of God. Holiness must be maintained in the church because the children of God gathered round about the table of Holy God. Absolute truth must be exhibited in the temple because we are all gathered together in the presence of God who knows the intent of the heart of man. We should not come to the presence of God with deceptive mind and the minister should check his garment and ensure that it is spotless before he steps into the pulpit. Undivided attention should be maintained. With wholesomeness of our heart we should worship the Heavenly Father. Faith must be exercised as the word of God becomes revealed through the power of Holy Spirit. The people of God who have been refreshed by the anointing of His presence must go out in the strength and power of Holy Spirit and demonstrate uprightness, righteousness and integrity of heart in their day to day relationship with people that come their ways.
Lastly brethren, we need to know that Jesus Christ did not hate the Scribes nor Pharisees and the Sadducees, after all he created them. The only thing he hated was their falsehood life they live. He had problem with was their lifestyle of stage show. He did not subscribe to their do-little attitude while they are portraying themselves as fulfilled people that are complete in holiness. He considered their idea of abandoning the weightier spiritual matters undone while devoting their total attention to ensure that tiny-winy act of righteousness are practiced as a deception. He did not mind their public prayer if their outward practices actually reflected their inward behaviors and if it is not purported to receive the attention of the onlookers in order to earn their cheap praises. He did not objected to the alms they give to the poor if it is done with the heart of compassion instead of ostentatious ulterior motive.
As Jesus spoke boldly to the Scribes and the Pharisees the same way the word of God comes to us today. The message is very clear and straight forward. Let the believers that have identified themselves with Jesus Christ be their true selves. They should not pretend to be holy outwardly when they come to the presence of God whereas their inner mind is like an open sepulcher. It is possible to deceive man but no one can mock God. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) If they are living a life of sin, they must be ready to shake off the dust of unrighteousness and let go of the evil entanglement in order that they will not become a stumbling block to others in the gathering of the saint. The righteousness of the believers must be all rounded. The people of God cannot afford to be living a double lives—angels of God in the Church on Sunday but agents of Lucifer for the rest of the week in terms of character and attitude. If you are not involving yourself in adultery and fornication because of the revelation of the word of God, that is excellent. You must not also participate in gossiping and backbiting about any one because the word of God warned us against such. Because of your calling, your actions and utterances carry much weight. You must be very careful of what you say because every careless word will be accounted for. Your minister and the elders in the church are all human beings that are liable to one weakness or the other; do not table the weaknesses of your church leaders in the midst of the scornful and come to church on Sunday and play holiness. Remember the word of God that says, “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” (I Chronicle 16:22)
If you are a prayer warrior in a church or you are choir, to God be the glory. When the blessing of God begin to manifest in the life of people you stood in gap on behalf for intercessory prayer do not allow the spirit of envy to come upon you towards them. When the people that the fruit of your lips attracted to receive salvation begin to grow in the church, or perhaps you are instrumental one way or the other for the advancement of the kingdom of God in your church, do not allow your head to swell up in pride. Do not allow an inch for secret pride to reign in your heart and say to yourself, “If not because of me, the church would not have increased numerically.” Do not attempt to share the glory with the Lord. “I am the Lord, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another…” (Isaiah 42:8)