Scrupulously religious people always run a risk… The risk of hypocrisy, one of the worst sins of all! They begin to focus on external religious acts and ignore the heart. Ritual becomes more important than authentic righteousness – “inside-out righteousness!” They begin to “play to the crowd” rather than sustain a genuine, heartfelt relationship with the “Living God!” Ancient “Pharisees” within Judaism became synonymous with this kind of hypocrisy. They were scrupulous about tithing, ceremonial washings, formal public prayers, what they ate (or didn’t eat), religious rituals of all kinds, and wearing the right liturgical garb… The condition of their heart (and what they did in secret), however, was an entirely different matter! They purged out every vestige of ritual “leaven” (symbolic of evil), while all the time their heart was full of it!
So this was the warning Jesus gave to his followers… “Beware of the ‘leaven’ of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy! Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” (Luke 12:1-3 ESV)
Scarey eh? Listen… I don’t know about you, but I want to righteous “inside-out!” I know myself all too well… I’m a “recovering hypocrite!” I find it all too easy to turn my Christianity into a “public performance” and neglect the matters of the heart – the real kind of Christianity – “inside-out Christianity!” The cry of my heart? Lord help me have and exhibit “the real thing!”
I want the words of Apostle Paul (that I also read this morning in the Bible) to become the living motto of my life… “It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage, now as always, Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death!” (Philippians 1:20) “Beware of hypocracy!” – Good warning for Christ followers, don’t you think?