While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”
I came across this warning from Jesus today during my quiet time and immediately I had to ask myself, "Am I like these teachers of the law?" Am I just going through the motions? Is my heart right with God?
It's clear from Jesus' statements that even though these men seemed holy, they were not. They were very religious and were very well-respected in the Jewish community. This didn't impress God. Scripture says, "Judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God." (1 Corinthians 4:5). God sees your heart. Your intentions and your motivations matter to Him. It's clear from Jesus' reprimand that these men were motivated by evil things. The things they did which made them appear righteous were actually the very things which condemned them before God because they did those things from a wrong heart. Their long prayers, like their long robes, were just for show. They studied God's Word not out of a love for it but out a of love for places of honor at banquets and special greetings. They sought the approval of man, not of God.
When someone makes a god out of other people's opinions, eventually their righteousness reflects the smallness of their god. In other words their righteousness stops at what other people can see. These men served a god that was not all-knowing like the true God. Their god couldn't see into their hearts or behind closed doors. All they had to worry about was appearances. For these men religion was just a means to further the ends of their own personal agendas. That's why they were able to steal from widows.
Unfortunately this profile of hypocrisy has played itself out over and over again in a million different ways in many different lives. In some circles Christians are known for their hypocrisy precisely because of men like this. Notice Jesus' warning though: "These men will be punished most severely." The same is true of all of us who fall into their trap. So let me ask you, are you doing the right things for the wrong reasons? Are you putting on a religious front and using God for personal gain? Does your life match your confession? God sees you. "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account" (Hebrews 4:13). Heed Jesus' warning today and guard your heart against the weed of hypocrisy. Search your heart, your motivations and intentions and ask God to weed out those places where you have slipped into man-pleasing and self-service. Do it for your own good. Do it because God deserves your best.
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