Dr. Charles F. “Chuck” DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
NOVEMBER 29, 2015
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.
15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath. ’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath. ’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets. ’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers.
33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
— Matthew 23:13-36, ESV
As soon as we begin to use words, there is one four-letter word we are taught not to use: hate. It is wrong to say it. It is wrong to think it. It is just plain wrong, period.
We should not hate green beans, we should not hate homework, we should not hate things just because we don’t like them, because some of them are good for us. We especially should not hate other people, for we are all equals, created in the image of God.
God, on the other hand, is not our equal. God is transcendent and supreme, possessing attributes and authority available to no human being. We shall not hate Him, but is it within God’s character and rights to hate us, another person, or perhaps a whole group of persons?
Consider the curious case of Esau, twin brother of the Old Testament patriarch Jacob. Apparently, God hated Esau, as declared in the Old Testament and New Testament (ref. Malachi 1:3; Romans 9:13). If you think, as some do, that hate is tempered in this case to mean love a little less, then please read the entirety of Malachi 1:3-4.
Consider also the declarative statement about God in Proverbs 6:16-19. Included in the seven things which God hates are tongues, hands, hearts, feet, and the whole persons to whom such body parts belong. Surely this cannot mean the Lord just loves them a little bit less. Rather, it is quite clear that individuals and groups who consistently perform evil deeds without repentance are hated by God, and they will experience His full-blown anger, judgment, and wrath.
Now consider another set of sevens, seven woes pronounced by Jesus upon a certain group of people. Like hate and anger and wrath, woe seems to be a dirty word. I first heard it as a child uttered from the lips of my grandfather who was riding a stubborn shetland pony at the time. Woe meant stop, which the pony did, abruptly, just a few inches short of a barb-wired fence. When used in the Bible, however, as Jesus does in Matthew 23:13-36, woe means curse, condemnation, and a pronouncement of God’s utter disdain and destruction.
Hypocrites Are Hated By God
I know Christians are supposed to hate the sin and not the sinner, but remember, Christ is not a Christian. He is the Christ, He is the Lord, He is our God. And God, who is not our equal, reserves the right to hate, if He so chooses. Which, God does, according to the situation with Esau, plus anyone who fits the description of Proverbs 6:16-19, and all persons covered by the woes in Jesus’ final Temple sermon.
Woe, Jesus said seven times, to seven named people: the scribes, the Pharisees, the hypocrites, the blind (guides, fools, men, Pharisee), the whitewashed tombs, the murderers, and the snakes. You generally do not call people names like this if you really love them.
All seven names are best summed up by one: hypocrite. Hypocrisy at the highest levels of Jewish religious leadership is something made painfully plain by the Jewish disciple who wrote the Gospel according to Matthew. As the first book of the New Testament, his direct identification and dire warning should speak today to the heart of every member of the Christian church. Those who are Christian in name only, those who pretend to be Christians but do not practice the Christian faith, those who are using Christianity and church for personal power or profit, will one day fall under the horrible hatred, unrequited anger, and full wrath of God.
Why is God so hateful toward hypocrites?
Hypocrites Hold People Back From God
God is hateful toward hypocrites because hypocrites hold people back from God. I wish I had a nickel for every time I tried to share the gospel with someone or invite someone to church services and received a negative response because of the terrible influence some hypocrite had on their lives. Gandhi famously said he would have become a Christian, except for the Christians, and this script has played out on a billion other stages.
Woe, Jesus said, over the seven hateful ways that hypocrites hold others back from hearing the true gospel and becoming a faithful follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here they are, and they do not need much commentary. Hypocrites shut the door on people coming to Christ (vs. 13-14). Hypocrites keep people in their own false religion or cult (vs. 15). Hypocrites value money and material things more than God, and use religion to get it (vs. 16-20). Hypocrites practice partial obedience and teach others to do the same (vs. 21-24). Hypocrites work to look clean on the outside, but are morally dirty on the inside and when no one is watching (vs. 25-26). Hypocrites act spiritual, but are spiritually dead (vs. 27-28). Finally, hypocrites verbally or physically attack the true preachers of God’s word (vs. 29-36).
Woe, Jesus said, curse be upon you. Woe, my grandfather said, which means stop. Hear these woes carefully, and if you are a hypocrite or a person being influenced by a hypocrite, stop. Shun the hate of hypocrisy, embrace the love of God, because even God’s hatred is sometimes the most loving thing He can show.
Hatred Of Hypocrites Is One Of The Most Loving Things God Can Do
Jesus said these things personally and publicly. He did not talk about the hypocritical Pharisees behind their back, but said these things and more right to their faces. He said it out loud, too, for all the crowd to hear. In espousing God’s hatred for hypocrisy, God’s Son actually demonstrated great love.
These words served as a loving, last warning to the Pharisees. The world they made would soon burn down, and Christ’s fiery words should have served to make them run for living water. Even when expressing columns of hatred, God’s bottom line is love. Bad news about sin and punishment must be included in the good news of salvation by grace through repentance and faith in Jesus the Messiah.
These words serve as a loving, lasting warning to all people. I have a dear friend who I met when his wife brought him to hear me preach. He told me he did not like to attend church, for there were too many hypocrites in it. I repeated a cliche I had often heard, “You can go to church with them or you can go to Hell with them, make your choice.” His feathers were ruffled, his anger was kindled, yet he was curious enough to continue to come and hear me preach. Soon he repented and trusted Jesus Christ as Lord, and became one of the finest church members I have ever known. The church will not be rid of hypocrisy until Jesus comes again, but if you wait until Christ comes again to genuinely join the church, it will be too late.
While God’s hate can and does result in loving repentance and faith, our hate will never accomplish anything redemptive. We are God’s people, but we are not God. We do not have the right to hate any other human being. Far above us, God is supreme, and supremely complex. Let us let Him do His work His way. In His wrath He offers mercy, in His judgment He offers forgiveness, and even in His hate, He offers love. And sometimes, hate is the most loving thing God can do.