Posted by: gbake783 | February 7, 2012

Luke 12:1-3

Have you ever had a friend ask if you’re going the right way? He might ask very kindly and respectfully, but by asking, he’s not really asking. No, he’s gently counseling. Proverbs 12:15 says a fool always think he’s right – you can’t tell him anything. But, as the Proverb continues, a wise man listens to counsel. In Luke 12:1-3, Jesus counsels his disciples, and by extension, advises us. He takes the role of that good and kind friend who asks if we’re going the right way – he’s asking us to remember that God sees.

Everything.

Always.

The crowds were growing. Verse one says that uncountable myriads were gathering around our Savior. Jesus’ ministry was picking up momentum. And just before this wave of popularity seemed to be cresting, Jesus huddled with his disciples and gave them some counsel: Beware. The imperative is present – be on your guard right now. Be watchful tomorrow and the next day. Watch vigilantly for the enemy; be on your guard against a hypocritical attitude. Why the watchfulness? Because the enemy appears small and his effects are imperceptible at first, but irreversible in the end. Jesus describes our insipid enemy with a compelling metaphor: leaven. Only the smallest amount of leaven is needed to make bread rise. It’s effects are delayed – it takes hours for the bacteria to work it’s magic. And once the leaven is in the dough, there’s no reversing course. All the same, hypocrisy slips into our Christian lives so easily. It takes significantly more effort to keep the leaven out than it does to put the leaven in.

Christ condemns the “hypocrisy of the Pharisees” at several points. (1) Hypocrites give, fast, and pray publicly when they ought to do it privately (Matthew 6:1-2). (2) Hypocrites violate God’s commands [Honor your father and mother] with religious pretense [I can’t give you my money, mom and dad, it’s dedicated to God] (Matthew 7:6ff). (3) Hypocrites work hard to appear outwardly righteous, but make little effort to change their souls (Matthew 23:26-27). (4) Hypocrites ask loaded questions – not for the sake of knowing, but for pushing an agenda (Matthew 22:15-18). (5) Hypocrites elevate silly rules to the level of loving God. By following silly, attainable, and measurable rules hypocrites consider themselves right with God (Matthew 15:7-8). In short, hypocrites reduce faith to performing external rituals rather than giving utmost attention to the weighty matters of loving God and loving our neighbor.

But I suppose it would be hypocritical to condemn the Pharisees without being hard on ourselves first. This Sunday, when we went to church, did we assume God was a little happier with us simply because we gave an hour? Did our chests puff out when we dropped that check in the offering? Or worse, did we think less of others who didn’t give as much as we did? If so, a little leaven was sprinkled into our souls. Have we, in a fit of frustration, shouted at our children Ephesians 6:1? Have we recently deleted our internet history to hide the results from our spouse only to shake our heads or roll our eyes when a brother sins? Have we entertained a rumor under the guise of spiritual concern? Hypocrisy is insidious, indeed.

Then Jesus gives a sobering truth: God will shine light on everything we’ve done in the dark. And I suppose this can go one of two ways. On the one hand, there’s the obvious – we should think twice before sinning and assuming we can get away with it. Ananias and Saphira learned this the hard way – they gave a truck load of money and kept back a fraction. Not a problem, except they wanted everyone to believe they gave the whole truck load. The irony is that their sin was not in withholding the fraction, it was okay for them not to give it all. For them, the sin was believing that perception was more important than reality. Peter’s condemnation was succinct – you haven’t lied to God’s people, but to God the Spirit. And they paid the ultimate price.

But on the other, we have an incredible encouragement. All those secret moments with God are secrets only for now. They will have their reward. And I suppose this is why Christ was so frustrated with the Pharisaical insistence on performing their religious acts before men – they forfeited their heavenly reward for a fleeting moment of human recognition.

Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

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