The Heart of Hypocrisy

One of the most fascinating scenes in the earthly ministry of Jesus is found inbetween the events of Luke 11-12. If ever you want to see how unmoved Jesus is both by the criticisms and praises of men, Luke reveals it here. Jesus knew who he was, what he was sent to accomplish, and nothing was going to interfere with doing the will of His Father.

As Luke 11 comes to a close, Jesus is scolding and rebuking the most religious and influential people of the day for their hypocrisy. The Pharisees were consumed with spiritual pride, cultural prominence, and self-promotion. The lawyers imposed burdens and demands on the people they themselves did not keep. Jesus called all of them out for pretending to be righteous while condemning others for not measuring up to these self-imposed standards. The scene closes with these hypocrites pressing and provoking Jesus in order to catch him in error and to expose him to falsehood.

Luke 12 begins with “thousands of people…trampling one another” in order to get to Jesus. Interestingly enough, the gushing crowds have no more influence over him than his conniving haters. Jesus simply turned to his disciples and went into an extensive teaching about hypocrisy—the leaven of the Pharisees.

Typically when people are called out for hypocrisy, it has to do with someone’s behavior not matching their beliefs. A person professes (says) one thing while they practice (does) something else. While hypocrisy surfaces most visibly with a contradiction in a person’s practice, it is born with an absence of conviction in the heart.

In Luke 12, we are given four examples of hypocrisy from the teaching of Jesus. All of them point back to verse 2 which says, “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” In other words, Jesus is saying that you cannot hide what is inside your heart. The real you—your true identity—must necessarily come out. Where the Pharisees failed in their attempts to expose Jesus, Jesus suceeded in explaining that hypocrites cannot hide in their pretending, posing, and presenting a life with no conviction in the heart.

Hypocrisy Exposed

The first example of hypocrisy: Jesus exposes the fear of man. The greater fear--namely, the fear of God--cancels out the fear of man. Man may have the ability to kill you, but God has the authority to cast your soul in hell forever. Moreover, this God with promises to avail the same authority for believers because they are valued as his redeemed children. If then, you live as though you value the safety and security of this world due to the fear of man, you evidence that you do not know how valued you are by God in your heart. The contradiction of your behavior indicates the absence of God as your treasure.

The second example of hypocrisy: Jesus exposes shame and denial. It is appropriate to confess Jesus as Lord in the assembly of the saints, but it is even more appropriate to confess Jesus as Lord before men—the very same men who might kill you. A Christian cannot make a profession of the supremacy of Jesus only when it is safe because it is a denial of His Lordship and sovereignty over all. Those who make a good profession of Christ before men in palaces and prisons are those who have Christ as their chief possession in the heart. Jesus is not a part-time Savior who occasionally enters their consciousness; rather, He is an all-consuming passion that burns from the heart of the redeemed and engulfs every aspect of their lives. Hypocrites fail with shame and denial because they have fair-weather, superficial spirituality devoid of a heart arrested by liberating grace.

The third example of hypocrisy: A life eaten up with covetousness. Eleven times in two verses the covetous man speaks of himself self-referentially. He plans, priorities, and pursues a life where the world determines its worth. There is no eternal perspective and reality that all one gains in this short life on earth will be gone for eternity. Hypocrites believe there is an eternity to gain but spends their entire life contradicting that reality. What difference should eternity have on what we treasure and on the trajectory of our lives? Those who possess the riches of grace by discovering the Pearl of great price will have in their heart a far surpassing realization and contentment in the inheritance of the saints. The hypocrite knows no such contentment and therefore covets what this world cannot satisfy.

The fourth example of hypocrisy: A life of worry and anxiety. Everyone has a basic need for food and clothing. Hypocrites give no consideration to God’s providence in creation and moreover to God’s compassionate concern for His children. Where there is no consideration of God, there is no intentional pursuit of His kingdom. Hypocrites expend their thoughts like the Gentles who have no God. There is no trust in His word and promises that He will provide for their needs (though there is ample evidence in creation to show that He can!). Hypocrites cannot seek first the Kingdom of God because the King is not ruling their hearts. Instead, they have chosen to be selfishly sovereign and operating out of a basis of worry and anxiety rather than faith and trust.

Gospel Renovation of the Heart

Fear, shame, covetousness, anxiety, and worry are all matters of the heart that every person on the planet faces on a regular basis. For the Christian, God has provided everything we need to live in a way that displaces these controlling principles with the liberating power of the Gospel. Our hearts are set free from the slavish rule of the hypocritical heart to live and move in the rhythms of grace because the King has taken occupancy on the throne of our lives. What we once covered up in the shadows of our sinful rebellion, God has revealed so that we might look away from ourselves to the righteousness of Another. What we once kept hidden in the secret recesses of our hearts, God has made known so that our identity can rest securely not in our pretending but in Christ’s performance on our behalf. The heart of hypocrisy is hypocrisy in the heart. If we want to deal with our hypocrisy, let us not simply look at the symptomatic behavior patterns of contradictory lives. Rather, let us strike at the root in the heart with God’s glorious Good News that He is better than what life can offer now and death can take later. And let us rest and rejoice in Jesus as our everlasting reward!


Related Resources

Ed Welch Running Scared: Fear, Worry and the God of Rest

Joe Thorn "A Holy Fear

Nick Batzig "The Fear of Men

Nick Batzig "The Grace of Remembering