Hypocrite! Hypocrite! We are quick to judge who we think may be a hypocrite, but most of us never consider we might be one. Jesus reserved His harshest words not for thieves, prostitutes, or drunkards, but for a segment of religious people He identified as hypocrites. One of Jesus’ missions was to expose people who claimed to represent God and His ways, while not living out what they professed.
Just what bothered Jesus about the Pharisees? It was their focus upon external behavior, all the while ignoring internal change. They were more concerned with form over substance and more concerned about appearance than reality. The Pharisees were only concerned with what a man did. Jesus was concerned with what and who a man was.
So Jesus’ toughest words came at the Pharisees’ expense. He accused them of majoring on minors, being preoccupied with being noticed, and being a burden upon people rather than a blessing. Ouch! Listen to Jesus’ words…
“And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” Luke 11:46
Jesus accused these religious leaders of taking all the joy out of living for God. Do these guys sound like anyone you know? Bottom line – they made serving God a joyless burden. This is what lifeless religion will do… it will suck the life right out of you and anyone else around you. Lifeless religion causes us to focus upon meaningless activities. It keeps the flesh busy while the soul starves.
It’s like pedestrians in New York who still press the button to get the lights to change… despite the fact their activity produces no results. Since the late 80’s all the traffic signals have been controlled by computer, but the city won’t pay to have the buttons removed. It’s probably just as well. The repetitive motion helps boost people’s illusion of control. We feel better when we can do something… right?
The Pharisees had all of Israel pushing buttons which really didn’t matter. Why? Because someone in the past told them to do it… they just kept passing along burdens to the next generation. Each generation’s burden became larger than the previous.
This is why Jesus always pointed people back to discovering a relationship with God. It is not about activity, but all about who we are in the Lord. Religion focuses upon activity. Relationship focuses upon love. If you want to remain free today, focus upon your love relationship with the Father.