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This is part of a leadership series on the theme of integrity

If we fail to face up to our inadequacy, we fall into the trap of the Pharisees: hypocrisy.  Hypocrisy is the opposite of integrity, and this is precisely what Jesus accuses the Pharisees and teachers of the law of in Matthew 23.  Six times in this sermon, he uses the stinging word “hypocrites” (vv. 13, 15, 23, 24, 27, 29).  Originally, a hypocrite meant an actor who put on a mask to assume a false identity while he played for the audience.  This accusation would be particularly offensive to the Pharisees who hated all forms of Hellenization, including the Greek theatre.  In essence, Jesus was calling them the very thing they hated.

Anyone who has ever labored under the false notion that Jesus was some kind of quiet, nice man will have trouble with these verses:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are….

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness….

“You snakes!  You brood of vipers!  How will you escape being condemned to hell?”

Matthew 23:15, 27-28, 33

This is not, to use Philip Yancey’s expression, “Mr. Rogers with a beard!”  Jesus’ language reveals the depth of his righteous anger.  Notice that each verse that includes the word hypocrite begins with the words: “Woe to you.”  This word “woe” (ouai) can contain pathos, anger, warning and derision; and may include all of these at the same time.  In this passage, Jesus lambasted the Pharisees for saying one thing and doing another.  Their lack of integrity was not only substandard for those who would follow Christ, as religious leaders they were guilty of misrepresenting God the Father.

Wishing you God's grace and peace,

Ken Boa
Reflections Ministries

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