Today's Bible passages feature the incredible absurdities of Jacob (and his sneaky wife Rachel!) in Genesis 31, some very satisfying comeuppance for the antisemite Haman in Esther 7, and Jesus healing, forgiving, and calling a seemingly ignoble tax-collector to His team of disciples in Mark 2. Romans 2 is our focus passage of the day, and it is all about hypocrisy and its dangers. Even though the word 'hypocrite' is not found in the chapter at all, Romans 2 contains one of the most detailed - almost poetic - descriptions of hypocrisy in the Bible. Today we will change our format up ever so slightly by first reading Romans 2, and discussing how hypocrisy can blaspheme God's name, then we will read Esther 7, and cover the one big (and grisly) Bible mystery in that passage. Shout-out to my friend and Valley Baptist church-goer Dan Blair who suggested the topic for today's podcast (because he was reading ahead into Romans) and also shout out to the people that attacked one of our church Facebook posts this week for being an excellent demonstration that hypocrisy is not just something that Christians do, but that anybody can engage in hypocrisy!
Let's jump right into Romans 2, and come back for a deep discussion of hypocrisy!
Hypocrisy is a big, big deal. If you Google the word to come up with a concise and easy to understand definition (as I did), you will find this gem presented to you from the Oxford dictionary, "[hypocrisy is] the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform; pretense." Of all the definitions I read, and there are many, I believe that this one correlates most closely to the behavior that Jesus seeks to challenge and condemn so many times. Interestingly, Google also serves up a picture to go along with hypocrisy, and it is a challenge to those of us, like myself, who are pro-life.
Hypocrisy is dangerous.
In most modern versions of the Bible, the word 'hypocrite' and its cognates appear about 30 or so times in most translations of the Bible. Of those appearances, about 75 percent of them are referenced by Jesus, and it is clear that this is an issue that is exceedingly important to Him. Consider just these four passages to get an idea of how Jesus feels about hypocrisy: (I note here that passage #1 gives a crystal clear definition of hypocrisy by Jesus.)
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of impurity. 28 In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
5 “Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
He answered them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written: This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,’ when you yourself don’t see the beam of wood in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the splinter in your brother’s eye.
So, according to Jesus, hypocrisy is appearing to be religious on the outside, but being dead and wicked on the inside/in secret. Hypocrisy is doing gaudy religious behavior so that you appear to be righteous. Hypocrisy is honoring God with our words (and social media posts) but being distant from Him in our hearts, and hypocrisy is judging other people for minor sins when we ourselves are engaging in major sins. In case you can't tell from what Jesus and Paul said, this behavior is incredibly dangerous to our own souls. It is also remarkably confusing to people who are NOT Christians. And, as Paul has shown us, this leads to them blaspheming (aggressively insulting and speaking against) the name of God.
When we Christians claim to believe the truths of the Bible, and strongly expound them on social media, and yet don't live up to the words of our mouths and the words of our posts, we are engaging in hypocrisy and increasing the level of blaspheme against the name of God. When we Christians claim to believe the teachings of the Bible, and then lionize and support people who live in opposite ways to the Word of God, then we are confusing non-believers, and engaging in the kind of hypocrisy that increases the level of blasphemy of God's name in the world. When we Christians come out against the immoral behavior of non-Christians and condemn that behavior, and then are later caught doing that same thing - or worse!- then we are engaging in the kind of hypocrisy that raises the level of blasphemy in the world and causes the world to view the teachings of the Bible with extreme skepticism. Our behavior and beliefs must correlate with our actions, and both must be governed by the Word of God and the leadership of the Holy Spirit. There is no justification - pragmatic, political, philosophical or otherwise - for any of those kinds of hypocrisy. We MUST flee from behavior that is hypocritical, lest we run afoul of our Master Jesus, or increase the level of blasphemy in the world.May such words not be true of us! Here are ten powerful quotes on hypocrisy:
When you see a man with a great deal of religion displayed in his shop window, you may depend upon it he keeps a very small stock of it within.
He that puts on a religious habit abroad to gain himself a great name among men, and at the same time lives like an atheist at home, shall at the last be uncovered by God and presented before all the world for a most outrageous hypocrite.
Thomas Brooks, The Privie Key of Heaven (1665).
We ought to read the psalms that curse the oppressor; read them with fear. Who knows what imprecations of the same sort have been uttered against ourselves? What prayers have Red men, and Black, and Brown and Yellow, sent up against us to their gods or sometimes to God Himself? All over the earth the White Man’s offence ‘smells to heaven’: massacres, broken treaties, theft, kidnappings, enslavement, deportation, floggings, lynchings, beatings-up, rape, insult, mockery, and odious hypocrisy make up that smell.
C. S. Lewis, Christian Reflections, ed. Walter Hooper, EPub Edition. (HarperOne, 2014), 119. NOTE: This was written more than ten years before the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
He talks about prayer, of repentance, of faith, and of the new birth; but he only knows how to talk about them. I have visited his family and have observed him both at home and abroad, and I know what I say is the truth. His house is as empty of religion as the white of an egg is devoid of flavor. There is no prayer offered in his house, nor any sign of repentance for sin. Yes, even an animal serves God far better than Talkative.“To all who know him, he is the very stain, reproach, and shame of religion. Because of his reputation, the neighborhood in which he lives hardly has a good word to say about him. The common people who really know him say, ‘A saint abroad and a devil at home.’
John Bunyan, Description of 'Talkative' a hypocrite who poses as a Christian in Pilgrim's Progress.
A hypocrite is the picture of a saint; but his paint shall be washed off, and he shall appear in his own colors.
Reverend John Mason
COALS of fire cannot be concealed beneath the most sumptuous apparel, they will betray themselves with smoke and flame; nor can darling sins be long hidden beneath the most ostentatious profession, they will sooner or later discover themselves, and burn sad holes in the man’s reputation. Sin needs quenching in the Saviour’s blood, not concealing under the garb of religion.
C. H. Spurgeon, Feathers for Arrows (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1870), 115.
O, what may man within him hide, Though angel on the outward side!
William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
Hypocrisy leads a man to pretend to be what he is not. His only hope lies in not being discovered; but, as Christ declares that “there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known;” hypocrisy becomes insanity as well as iniquity. Therefore, keep clear of it in every shape and form.
C. H. Spurgeon, “God’s Glory Our Reward,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 53 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1907), 104.
Hypocrisy is hateful to God and humanity. It does not bring a reward, and it is utterly useless for the salvation of the soul. It is rather the cause of its damnation. Although sometimes it may escape detection for a little while, before long, it is sure to be uncovered and bring disgrace on them.
Cyril of Alexandria 300s-400s AD Arthur A. Just, ed., Luke, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005), 203–204.
If a man preaches but does not practice what he preaches, he is like a well of water where everyone can quench their thirst and wash their dirt, but which cannot clean away the filth and dung that is around it.
Poeman, A Christian monk from the 300s-400s AD Elliot Ritzema, 300 Quotations for Preachers from the Early Church, Pastorum Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013).
As to the issue of Haman, almost certainly, he was not hanged on a the version of the gallows that most of us would be familiar with. The Hebrew verbiage is a bit ambiguous here, but it could be read to indicate the Haman was impaled on a pole/tree/spike, or that he was hung (as in, attached) to a pole and left to die. Probably not dropped through the gallows as we think of it.
In the work of the Greek historian Herodotus, impalement is regularly presented as a Persian punishment (see The Histories, 1.128, 3,132, 3.159, 6.30 as examples). Given the setting of Esther, it thus seems likely that the manner of punishment for Haman was in fact impalement. In other words, the fifty-cubit “tree” built by Haman was intended to display Mordecai’s body impaled in such a way that no one could avoid seeing it. As it turned out, however, it was Haman, whose death (and the folly leading to it) was put on display for the entire population. This view is also confirmed by both recent commentaries (by Jon Levenson, for example) and by older commentaries (Keil and Delitzsch). In this case, I think the TNIV and the NLT to be more correct in their translation than the ESV or the NASB.
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