This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me.
Nothing caused Jesus’s stomach to turn any more than people who put on a facade of Christianity. In Matthew 6:1, He said, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”
When I was the youth minister at First Baptist Dallas, we used to put on a haunted house at the farm of one of our members. One year, I was working on this haunted house, and I needed to call my wife to tell her I was going to be late coming home. This was before cell phones, but I noticed across the road there was a motel with a phone booth. Remember phone booths? I went into the phone booth, put my quarter in, and waited for the dial tone. Nothing. So I knocked on the door of the motel office to see if I could use the phone. Nothing. Eventually, I opened the door, and behind it was an empty field. I thought, “Where am I? Is this the Twilight Zone?” I did not know it at the time, but I had stumbled onto a movie set. It looked real, but it was all a facade. That is what Jesus was talking about here–Christianity that looks real until you open it up and find there is nothing inside.
Did you know Jesus’s most scathing indictments were not against adulterers, murderers, or drunkards but against religious hypocrites? The most scathing of these denunciations is found in Matthew 23: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers. . . . Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. . . . You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?” (vv. 14-15, 33).
The Greek word for “hypocrite” referred to stage actors who would wear masks. That is how Jesus described the Pharisees. They performed their good deeds in order to be seen by men, but their righteousness was a mask, a facade. That is what Jesus was condemning.
Now, you may remember that a little bit earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (5:16). So which is it–are we supposed to let others see our good deeds, or beware of practicing righteousness before others? It is all in the motive. If you are practicing your righteous acts not to glorify God but to be seen by other people, that is hypocrisy, and that is what Jesus condemned.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Straight Talk About Your Worship” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2022.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org