Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Honoring God with Dirty Hands

Note: This is the first of a two-part post on the false worship of hypocrisy. This first post discusses some of the dangers of hypocrisy. Next time, we'll wrap it up with some final warnings on hypocrisy and the solution of true worship that honors God.

A frequent criticism of the church is, "It’s a bunch of hypocrites." Many will give that as one of their quick-n-ready reasons for not going to church or for not believing the gospel. Yet the simple fact of the matter is, everyone plays the hypocrite. 

Everyone pretends. Everyone acts. Everyone puts up a front. It’s been that way since Adam and Eve held fronds to their figures and stammered, “It’s their fault, not mine,” hiding what they had become. Sinners. They tried to cover up the outside, when their problem was inside. They felt their dirty hearts burning with shame, so they hid when God called their name. That’s what hypocrisy is. It’s the hiding of your dirty ruinous soul behind a thin veneer of fake piety.

The Rebuke of Adam and Eve, by Domenichino [PD], via Wikimedia Commons
One of the great truths of the gospel is that Jesus came to ransom and save sinners (Mark 10:45). Jesus continues to love the sinners he has ransomed even while they are still covered in the dirt of this earthly life. Jesus is patient toward his true followers. Throughout the gospel of Mark Jesus demonstrates an uncanny patience toward his disciples. They repeatedly fail to understand the true significance of who he is (Mark 6:52), but Jesus is patient and long-suffering toward them. 

God is merciful toward sinners who realize and acknowledge their sin (Luke 18:13-14). Jesus was faithful to show that mercy and patience. But while he is patient toward repentant sinners, Jesus deals differently with hypocrites.

Jesus shows God's hatred for the false worship of hypocrisy. Even more sobering, as the Son of God, Jesus knows if you are a hypocrite. Jesus sees to the very soul of every man and sees if the worship you offer to God is genuine or not. What Jesus wants is for you to honor God with a sincere heart. You can honor God with dirty hands. It starts in the heart. The heart is what God is after. 

In Mark 7:1-13, Jesus confronts the false piety of the Pharisees who had exalted their tradition over the law of God. The Pharisees had come down from Jerusalem and seized on a perceived slight by Jesus' disciples against their accepted religious tradition. Their infraction? They were eating with dirty hands (Mark 7:2). It's at this point we see the first danger of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy makes good micro-managers. 

30281 Micro Manager Battle by Masked Builder
 (no changes made, CC BY 2.0 bit.ly/1qbB20m)
Mark lets us know that this wasn't dirty hygiene hands, but ceremonially unclean hands (7:3-4). The Pharisees see Jesus' men breaking bread together and they have a religious panic attack. Their tradition had strict stipulations for ritual cleansing, especially before any tasty morsel could touch their holy lips. But they go one further and use this to accuse Jesus. They question Jesus; accusingly implying that his disciples transgressed under his oversight.

Hypocrisy make good micro-managers

It's here that we see the first danger of hypocrisy. Hypocrites are really good at trying to control everyone else around them. They are consummate micro-managers. The Pharisees were like that. They had their tradition, and in their misguided zeal, they wanted everyone else to follow along. Whereas some dictators will offer free tacos and their love (you have to watch The Lego Movie © to get that reference), the Pharisees offered "the tradition of the elders" as their ground for authority. This had led to a heavy burden on the backs of the people. A burden so heavy that it actually kept many Jews from obeying the simple law of God (Mark 7:9-12). 

If you see "how things have always been done" beginning to burden other Christians, you might have a case of religious hypocrisy. Watch out for this attitude. If you become more concerned that everyone follow your standard, and your standard is over and above the bounds of Scripture, it's time to take a gut check. The danger is, a lot of times people will follow a hypocritical micro-manager. While almost everyone else had rolled over for the manipulative ploys of the Pharisees, Jesus did no such thing. He struck back - hard. 

Jesus cut to the chase and called them hypocrites (Mark 7:6). Jesus confronts the second danger of hypocrisy; hypocrisy makes false worshipers. When it came to attacks on God and his Law, Jesus didn't hold back. He called it what it was. He spoke the truth and confronted them for what they were, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites (Mark 7:6)." In Mark 7:6-7, Jesus quotes from Isaiah 29:13 to confront the false worship and religious standards of the Pharisees. God had confronted Israel through Isaiah for their false worship of Yahweh. They professed to be God's covenant people with their lips, but their hearts were far from a true love for God (Isaiah 29:13). 

Hypocrisy makes false worshipers

Jesus sees into the hearts of the Pharisees and confronts them for the same false worship (Mark 7:6). The Pharisees professed loyalty to God, but their hearts were far from Him. Jesus sums up this deficiency of true love for God, a deficiency of true worship, with one word; hypocrite. Jesus uses the word hypocrite which in classical Greek described play-actors; their profession was pretending to be something they were not in real life. The Pharisees put on a mask of holiness, but inside their hearts were far from God. 

Ancient Greek Theatrical Mask of Zeus By Carole Raddato,
(CC-BY-SA-2.0 bit.ly/1sWgqGY)

Jesus confronted the dangers of hypocrisy during his time on earth. This same hypocrisy continues today and men of God must guard against it; in their own hearts and in the church. J.C. Ryle was faithful to confront the hypocrisy he found in his church over 100 years ago.
 Think what a solemn warning there is here to all worldly and hypocritical professors of religion. Let all such read, mark, and digest these words. Jesus says to you, "I know thy works." You may deceive me or any other minister; it is easy to do so. You may receive the bread and wine from my hands, and yet be cleaving to iniquity in your hearts. You may sit under the pulpit of an evangelical preacher, week after week, and hear his words with a serious face, but believe them not. But remember this, you cannot deceive Christ. He who discovered the deadness of Sardis and the lukewarmness of Laodicea sees you through and through, and will expose you at the last day, except you repent.1)
Hypocrisy is a dangerous game. It covers up a dirty heart with a shiny exterior. It tries to make everyone else play the game and it dishonors God with false worship. The good news is, Jesus is good to those who repent. He is gracious and patient toward those who recognize hypocrisy in their lives and turn toward a God in true worship. 

Next week, Mark will show another danger of hypocrisy and I'll discuss how Christians should deal with this issue in their own lives and in the church.


1) Ryle, J.C., Holiness (Moscow, ID: Charles Nolan Publishers,  2001), 279.

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