Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The leaven of hypocrisy

Saul tears Samuel's robe - Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1851-1860)
Saul tears Samuel's robe - Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1851-1860)
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Samuel 15:10-31

TO CHEW ON: "Then he said,'I have sinned, yet honour me now, please, before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me, that I may worship the Lord your God.'" 1 Samuel 15:30.

Saul was an ancient Pharisee in that he was a hypocrite. He wanted Samuel to attend the sacrifice with him in front of Israel's elders as if nothing was wrong, even though Samuel had just caught him in a bold-faced lie and told him that God had rejected him as king.

[Hypocrisy: The pretense of having feelings or characteristics one does not possess; especially the deceitful assumption of praiseworthy qualities - Funk & Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary.]

The ancients were well acquainted with hypocrisy. Note this vivid description of a hypocrite:
"The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart; His words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords" Psalm 55:21.

Jesus' hypocrisy meter clicked fast and furious whenever a Pharisee was around. For example there was the day He was invited to dinner at a Pharisee's home and He neglected the ceremonial washing. His host "...marveled that He had not first washed before dinner." Jesus responded: "Now you Pharisees, make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness" - Luke 11:37-39.

Jesus called the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees "leaven" (yeast) (Luke 12:1). We know how yeast acts. It starts out small and isolated, but gradually grows and expands to permeate the whole lump of dough. Jesus was in effect saying that everything the Pharisees did was infected with hypocrisy.

Other New Testament references to hypocrisy show us how it can infect us too.
  • Jesus warned about the temptation to do even our religious practice (like giving and praying) with a view to impress. But God who sees us through and through is not fooled (Matthew 6:2-6).
  • James talks about the hypocrisy of partiality as we defer to those among us who appear wealthy and influential while ignoring the person who is humble and poor (James 2:1).
  • John warns about generally thinking of ourselves as better than we are and without sin, and thus self-deceived and separated from God (1 John 1:8-10).
The picture of hypocrisy as leaven sticks with me. How subtly it comes in. How silently it grows. How widespread it becomes. Is there any of that yeast in my life? In yours?

PRAYER: Dear God, please alert me to the hypocrisy in my life. Help me to recognize it and get rid of it, just like the Israelites rid their homes of leaven before feast days. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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