Posts Tagged ‘hypocrisy’

Today we move into the third section of the Sermon on the Plain. Now, these are not just isolated sayings of Jesus strung together for no reason. They all fit together. This can be seen by the careful way that it is put together, which parallels the second section on dealing with enemies, with v. 36 holding them together:

Dealing with enemies (27-35)

  • Two sets of four sayings on loving enemies (27-30)
  • A key principle (31)
  • Some provocative questions (32-34)
  • An exhortation (35)
  • The result of obedience (35)

Center of the sermon (36)

  • Be merciful

Correcting others (37-45)

  • Four mercy sayings (37-38a)
  • A key principle (38b)
  • Some provocative questions (39-42)
  • An exhortation (42)
  • The result of obedience (42)

What this section is about

This part of the sermon is also held together by two interrelated themes: 1. The theme of mercy. This section is set up by the center point of the sermon – v. 36, which says, “Be merciful even as your Father is merciful.” And this mercy theme is continued in vs. 37-38, when it talks about forgiveness as opposed to condemnation.

2. And then we also have the theme of correcting others

  • vs. 37-38 are about judging or giving mercy when someone sins
  • v. 39 speaks of someone who is blind who needs guidance
  • vs. 41-42 speaks of correcting others who have sin in their lives

When you put these together, the focus of this section is on correcting others with mercy. It is interesting that the core of Jesus’ sermon highlights two areas that we don’t like to talk about – loving enemies and correcting others.

Jesus’ instructions on giving mercy

judge not and you will not be judged
condemn not and you will not be condemned
forgive and you will be forgiven
give and it will be given to you

The first two are synonymous parallels; they mean pretty much the same thing. Also the second two are parallels – forgive and give, that is, give mercy. It’s not about money so that all of a sudden Jesus changes topics. It’s implied for sure, but it means – give mercy.

Also the first two and the last two are opposites. To not judge or condemn is to forgive or give mercy.

What does it mean to judge someone?

We have begun to answer this, but let’s look more closely because this often confuses people. Jesus is not talking about:

  • discerning what is or is not a sin
  • or calling someone to stop sinning

This is the same Jesus, after all, who told us in Luke 17:3 – “If your brother sins, rebuke him . . ..” Here you have a discernment that something is a sin, and a call for the person to stop doing it.

Rather, judging means that you determine someone is unworthy of mercy – from God or others. Here’s an example of some judging responses. Bob, an addict, stole your car and wrecked it. You might:

  • hold bitterness and hatred against him
  • speak evil against him, his character (James 4:11)
  • look down on and keep away from him, like the Pharisee who said, “God, thank you that I am not like this tax collector – Luke 18:10.
  • withhold forgiveness when there is repentance
  • seek to harm him

What does it mean to give mercy?

Mercy means there is the possibility of redemption and a new start – with both God and others.

Again, Bob, an addict, stole you car and wrecked it. To give mercy, you can:

  • have compassion for him
  • see the good in him
  • recognize you have failed too and you are not that different
  • forgive when there is repentance
  • work with him as he tries to live a new life, giving help and accountability

A key principle

v. 38 – “For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” This principle is behind the logic of all four of Jesus’ instructions above. And it is radical! It means – you will get from God what you have given to others, either judgment or mercy. Some motivation here for action! Next we have –

Some provocative questions

– which come in the context of an extended set of sayings on blindness and seeing.

v. 39 – “He also told them a parable: Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?” Those who taught others were called guides to the blind. In this case, however, the teacher is also blind, which leads to disaster for both teacher and student. Jesus is saying, ‘Disciples, you are blind. You are still learning and you need a good teacher to guide you.’

In v. 40 he goes on to talk more about teachers and students. “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Jesus is saying to his disciples, ‘Once you’re fully trained, you will be like me.’ Jesus was famous for giving mercy to sinners, prostitutes and tax-collectors. All those that others judged and cast aside. As disciples, we will be known for our mercy as well.

Next comes more questions. vs. 41-42 – “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye?”

You know how it feels when you get something in your eye and you can’t see. I can only imagine how it must feel to have a log in your eye. This does present something of an image of the blind leading the blind.

Here’s the point:

  • You see a sin in someone else’s life (a speck) and try to correct it.
  • But you don’t see your much bigger problem that should be corrected first.

Now this could apply to any problem you have that is worse than the issue you are trying to correct in someone else. But here, in context, the log refers to being merciless and judgmental, as you try to correct someone. If you see sin in a Christian’s life you look down on them, speak evil of them and don’t forgive them.

An exhortation

v. 42 – “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye . . ..” Get rid of your much bigger problem, judging and condemning others. Learn mercy and practice forgiveness.

The result of obedience

v. 42 –  “. . . and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” Before, with the log in your eye, the correction was just a part of condemning the person. That’s why Jesus calls the person a “hypocrite.” They look like they are doing something good, but they are really only judging someone.

It’s only when you learn mercy for those who struggle and fail that you will “see clearly to take out the speck” in the other person. This is when you’ll actually be able to help someone with their problem, when they fail, when they struggle.

How does it work? If you see sin in a Christian’s life – recognize you have failed too, pray and work for their repentance and forgive when there is repentance.


How will you respond when you see sin in a fellow Christian’s life? It’s not like this is an uncommon thing.

Remember: If you give judgment and condemnation, not only will you be the blind leading the blind, God will give you judgment and condemnation.

But, if you give mercy and forgiveness, not only will you be able to help, God will give you mercy and  forgiveness. As vs. 38 says, “a good measure (of mercy), pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.”

William Higgins

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Today we are looking at a very familiar text – Leviticus 19. This is where the commandment, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” comes from, which Jesus names as the second greatest commandment of all.

But how many of you know that the context of the giving of this commandment is – dealing with wrongdoing in relationships among God’s people? This is our title and focus for today.

Here is the text:

“You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of them. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” – Leviticus 19:17-18 (NRSV modified)

Alright, we begin with . . .

Two initial considerations

. . . that will help us to make sense out of these verses.

1. This is talking about relationships among the people of God. There are actually several different terms used in these verses to talk about relationships, but all of them speak to fellow members of the covenant community.

The word “neighbor” used in the love command of v. 18, based on how it is used in the Old Testament, clearly means ‘fellow Israelite.’ [Leviticus 19:34, which repeats the love command, reinforces this point. It calls for love for “aliens” or “strangers” – those who immigrate and become to some degree a part of Israel. This wouldn’t need to clarified, if “neighbor” already covered everyone.]

So, we are dealing with relationships among God’s people.

2. Vs. 17 and 18 parallel each other (Jacob Milgrom). I share this because the two verses help fill out each other’s meaning; they give context to each other. There are three part to both verses, which speak to three themes:

v. 17 v. 18
What you shouldn’t do You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people

What you should do

you shall reprove your neighbor

but you shall love your neighbor as yourself


lest you incur sin because of them

I am the Lord

This will help us, as we now see what these verses teach us about what to do –

When you are wronged by a neighbor . . .

1. We learn what you shouldn’t do. V. 17 – You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin.” You can see the parallel and the expansion in v. 18, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your.”

The idea is that when you have hatred in your heart (v. 17)

  • You have wrong inner attitudes towards the person; you “bear a grudge” – (v. 18). And also,
  • It leads you to take wrong actions towards the person; you “take vengeance;” you do them wrong in return (v. 18).

We shouldn’t harbor hatred or grudges in our heart that lead us to wrong actions on our part.

2. We learn what you should do. V. 17 – “you shall reprove your neighbor.” The word reprove is similar to rebuke, admonish, censure, or correct. It means to point out a wrong, specifically here, a wrong done to you. The idea is that you do this, so that the wrong can be righted. Instead of trying to get them back, you go to them to work things out.

The parallel here is really important. V. 18 says, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” So, to reprove your neighbor (v. 17) is to love your neighbor as yourself (v. 18).

Let me say it this way. In context this is what neighbor love means. When wronged:

  • Don’t hate them or wrong them in return
  • Rather point out the wrong in order to work through it. Come to them with the issue so that things can be made right.

This is what it means to love your neighbor, when they have wronged you.

Now the way these verses are put together makes it clear that the call to reprove, is a call to love. So obviously this is not about venting anger, telling someone off, or saying mean things. It is about loving your neighbor as you love yourself. You are to act for their good, just like you act for your own good. This is what the phrase – “love your neighbor as you love yourself” means. And so it is to be an act of love, done in a loving way.

3. We learn why you should reprove/love instead of hate/take revenge. V. 17 says, “lest you incur sin because of them.” This most likely means, if you harbor hatred it will lead you to act in hatred toward the person; that is to harm them. This is not loving your neighbor. So in this way it leads you to sin.

V. 18 says, “I am the Lord.” This means, because God said so. And God is always right. And we should do what is right and not sin.

So this is the basic teaching. Now lets ask a practical question . . .

How wrong does the wrong have to be before we act to reprove?

Well, we are always going to do things that annoy each other. This even happens among happily married couples. How much more among us!

And there will always be people with different personality types, who most likely aren’t ever gonna be best friends. And this is OK. We are called to love one another, not all be “best friends forever.”

And we will always have misunderstandings or even disagreements and we can work on these.

But these don’t mean that you need to automatically move into “reproving mode.” What I am saying is there is an element of bearing with each other, and overlooking minor things in any community’s relationships.

  • As Colossians 3:12-13 says, – “Put on . . . compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another . . .”
  • As Proverbs 19:11 says, – “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is one’s glory to overlook an offense.” Some offenses can be overlooked.

But, how do you know when you should speak to the person? Well, if what was done is causing: resentment, bitterness, an unforgiving spirit, abiding anger, wrong words (like gossip or slander) or wrong actions on your part; in the language of our text – hatred in your heart, a grudge, or actions of vengeance – then you must act! Deal with the issue. Seek to work through it.

Now let me acknowledge that . . .

It can be hard to do deal with such issues in our relationships with each other

As Americans we just as soon break off the relationship, than to honestly deal with things. We are uncomfortable with this kind of stuff.

And as church people we think that we have failed if there is conflict, because we are supposed to be witnesses for love and peace to the world.

So we become conflict avoiders; we push everything under the rug. I mean some churches have so much stuff under the rug that when you walk around your head hurts from scraping the ceiling!

What we need to understand is that we are true witnesses when we work through issues in love, rather than just getting mad or walking away. The world already knows how to do this. When we have problems and pretend like we don’t – we just come off as hypocrites.

We will be true witnesses when they see us love each other enough to work through things in a loving way. This kind of deep love is new and different. This is our witness.

So no matter how hard it is, God calls us to have real relationships with each other. And this means dealing with problems that arise in love.

Let me just say that this is what God does with us. It’s because he loves us that he reproves us:

  • Hebrews 12:5-6 (quoting Proverbs 3:11-12) says, Don’t “be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves . . .”
  • In Revelation 3:19 Jesus said, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline . . .”

In the same way, if we love the person, we will deal with the issue.

Alright, we could also talk about receiving reproof, forgiveness and reconciliation – but we will stop here for today.

I hope you hear me this morning:

  • Let us not be a congregation where resentments build up, where relationships remain strained, where our love for one another is shallow, weak or cold.
  • Let us deal with our issues that arise – and is this way love each other as we love our own selves; and in this way live in peace with one another.

William Higgins

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Today we look at a familiar passage from Matthew 6. As we will see, it teaches us about seeking out God’s attention, and we all need God’s attention and help with our concerns and needs.

Our text is found right smack in the middle of what is called the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7) a section of this gospel that pulls together much of Jesus’ teaching on righteousness.

Read through this text, if you will – Matthew 6:1-18 

1. Jesus is calling us to engage in these activities

that is, almsgiving (or giving to the poor), prayer, and fasting. These were all central practices of Jewish spirituality. But notice in this – Jesus assumes that we will be practicing these as well, for he says,

  • “when you give to the needy” – v. 2
  • “when you pray” – v. 4
  • “when you fast” – v. 16

. . . not “if” or “if you happen to get around to these.”

We are to be giving to the poor, praying and fasting. And so we might begin by asking ourselves – “When was the last time we prayed seriously?” or “Specifically gave to the poor?” or “Fasted in any form?”

Jesus assumes we are doing these things, and he is simply teaching us how to do them in the right way.

2. Each of these practices seeks God’s attention and favor

This is important to understand if we want to get Jesus’ point. This comes out in our verses because he is saying , when we do these things in the right way:

  • God will take note of us
  • God will respond to us

Or as Jesus says three times – “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Now Prayer is obvious enough. It’s all about seeking God that God will hear us and help us. We want God’s attention and God’s mercy.

Fasting is often connected to prayer. In fact, fasting is a particularly intense kind of praying, usually when someone is upset, distressed or grieving. Your situation is so bad that you must have God’s attention and favor. You are desperate. And Scripture notes that God responds to this kind of intense seeking.

Almsgiving – might seem puzzling here, but it is seen in Scripture as giving you favor before God and in your seeking of God. Lets look at this one just a bit more . . .

The principle behind this is clear – “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” – James 5:16. The one who is righteous or obedient has powerful prayers; they have favor with God.

In Judaism, and also here with Jesus, giving alms is a, if not the token of a truly righteous person. In fact in Judaism giving alms became synonymous with the word for “righteousness.” So, given our principle, giving to the poor gives power to your prayers.

An example: Acts 10:4. Remember the story of Cornelius? He prayed and had a vision from God where an angel came to him. Our verse says, “And he stared at the angel in terror and said, ‘What is it, Lord?’ And he said to him, ‘Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.’”

Notice, his prayers and his alms came up before God. And because of this he had God’s favor. So God sent Peter to preach the gospel to him.

  • His alms gave potency to his prayers.
  • His alms gave him favor with God.

So, all of these practices have to do with seeking God’s attention and favor – “they are seeking activities.” Prayer is seeking God and both almsgiving and fasting  are, as it were, “prayer enhancers.” They are ways of strengthening our praying and seeking after God. They come alongside our prayers, to make them more effective.

Now let’s look at . . .

3. What Jesus is forbidding here

. . . because we sometimes miss the point.

  • Jesus is not saying that we can’t give alms publicly. For instance in church – in our offerings. Remember how in Luke 21:1-4 Jesus commends the widow who gave to the temple treasury, in public?
  • Jesus is not saying that we can’t pray publicly. For instance how we pray in church. Both Jesus and the apostles prayed in pubic, not in a closet.
  • And as well, Jesus is not saying we can’t fast publicly. Paul and others fasted publicly as we see in the book of Acts (13:2: 14:23).

No. Jesus is saying – Don’t draw attention to yourself when you do these things – for instance:

  • Blowing a trumpet when you give alms. (Now this is probably not literal, but just a figure of speech for getting everyone’s attention).

  • Praying where the most people can see you.

  • Disfiguring your face so everyone knows you are fasting, the idea being to emphasize that you are suffering as you fast.

Rather than all this, Jesus teaches us to make sure we don’t draw attention to ourselves. And he drives this idea home with typically extreme statements:

  • With regard to giving – don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.

  • With regard to prayer – go off into a closet to pray.

  • With regard to fasting – dress up as if you are celebrating.

This is all hyperbole or intentional exaggeration. As I said, Jesus didn’t always pray in a closet (if ever). His point in all of this is simply – Don’t draw attention to yourself!! Or as Jesus says at the end of each example, engage in these practices “in secret”- for God to see.

Now this doesn’t mean that others won’t see us . Jesus talks about this in Matthew 5:16. We are to let our light shine before others so that people will see our good works and glorify God. But, our text teaches us, we are not to do these things in order to be seen!

This brings us to . . .

4. The central contrast that Jesus is making

These three practices are meant to seek God’s attention and favor.  But we often use them to seek human attention and favor. They are meant to be focused on God and God’s reward. Not on people and the reward that they give.

Thus Jesus rightly says in each case, don’t be like the “hypocrites.” For hypocrisy is when appearances are not as they seem:

  • we appear one way on the outside (good & righteous)
  • but we are really another way within (unrighteous, full of pride or deceit)

In this case, we are doing righteous things: praying, fasting, giving to the poor. But we are doing them for the wrong reason. Instead of trying to please God, we are trying to please people, to gain human praise, notice and honor. (And this wrong motive often affects the character of our righteous acts . We tend to do them in exaggerated ways, trumpets blowing and all the rest, to make sure people notice).

Jesus wants us to do what is right, but that’s not all. To move beyond hypocrisy, we are to what is right, for the right reason.

5. Finally, there is a promise in these verses

It is not for those who seek to be seen in their praying, giving to the poor, and fasting. As Jesus said three times – “Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”

We get nothing from God, because we already got what we were really looking for – whatever human attention or praise we received from other people. We are nothing more than hypocrites.

But the promise is – if we give alms, pray and fast to gain God’s attention and favor (that is, with right intention and a pure heart) then God will reward our seeking of him. As Jesus said three times – “And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

This is the promise of Jesus to us – when we seek God as he instructs us to, we will get God’s attention. God will reward us; God will care for our needs and answer our prayers. William Higgins

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