Woe to You

April 10
Matthew 23:1–12

The scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do.
Illustration by Gustave Doré

Illustration by Gustave Doré

Jesus always had a disdain for the religious. It wasn’t because they believed the wrong things. The religious often believed the right things. However, their beliefs failed to transform the way they lived. Matthew 23 provides a snapshot into one moment in the final week of Jesus’s life. He was nearing the cross, but while in Jerusalem Jesus had a run-in with the religious leaders. In Matthew 23, Jesus vehemently attacks the Pharisees and religious leaders. He tells the people, “practice and observe what they tell you—but do not do what they do” (Matthew 23:3). But why? Jesus clearly explains: “For they preach, but do not practice” (Matthew 23:3). The pharisees were known for treating people poorly. They were also known to practice their piety purposefully in front of people so that other people would see them and honor them for their work. For the rest of Matthew 23, Jesus condemns the pharisees, calling them hypocrites.

We might not be religious leaders of our day (or maybe we are), but we can all fall into the sin of the pharisees: hypocrisy. It is so easy to believe rightly and yet never change how we live. Jesus commanded us to love God and love people with all of our being (Mark 12:30–31). If we think about spiritual growth and maturity from that angle, what we believe matters a whole lot less than how we live. Perhaps our maturity should be measured by how what we believe has impacted our hearts and changed the way we live our lives? Why do you worship God? Why do you serve people? To be seen by others? Fight the sin of hypocrisy in your life. Not only believe the right thing but also live the right way.

Reflection

  1. Reflect on your own life. Is there any hypocrisy in your life that you need the Lord to remove from your life?
  2. How can you grow spiritually mature today, focusing not only on what you know but how you live?
  3. Ask the Lord to forgive you of any hypocrisy in your life.