Jesus didn’t mince words when He let a hypocritical audience know that spiritually they were in serious trouble. The hypocrites that Jesus spoke to in Matthew 23 were going to hell because they sought their own glory. Their religion was a sham, a facade, a farce, an act, that had the intended purpose of building up the worth of their own estate. They prayed on pretense (v.14). Their religious deeds were just an act. They didn’t mean it to God. They sought to fool those who could be fooled. “Outwardly, they appear righteous to men, but inwardly they were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (v.28) They pretended to be religious, godly, and pious to keep and maintain their positions of lording it over others. They seated themselves in the chair of Moses (v.2), a place of glory. They did this because “they love the place of honor” (v.6). Any “good” thing that they did was done only to garner the attention and praise of men (v.5). The thought of being righteous for God, that He might be glorified, was foreign to them. They liked walking among the common people with their religous garments, receiving greetings and men’s praise, and being called “Rabbi” (v.7). But because they were so self-absorbed, no meaningful teaching occured. This is the result of self-made religion that “is of no value against fleshly indulgence” (Col. 2:23). It is a religion that is counterfeit and insincere. They have become like those that Paul warned of: “men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Tim. 6:5). Thus Jesus said to do what they say, but not what they do (v.3). Jesus said to the hypocrites and to those listening that because they exalt themselves, they would not be exalted by God. Jesus said that they were spiritually blind and whatever work they did was for nothing. Whoever became their follower, would be “twice a son of hell as yourselves” (v.15).
People like the Pharisees don’t see what is really important. They can’t. Once they have suppressed the truth in their own lives (Rom. 1:18), then the darkness spreads to all of their judgment. Like the Pharisees, they will tithe down to the smallest items (this religious detail is very important to those whose real interest is material), but they will neglect “the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness;…” (v.23). This is the pitfall of seeking self-glory; you fail to see what is really important. When we fail to recognize and ascribe to God what He alone is worthy of, then our judgment in all matters becomes impaired. Jesus said to hypocrites, “you strain a gnat and swallow a camel” (v.24). It sounds funny to hear, but the reality of this is tragic. To such people, it sounds like pure folly to say that “the greatest among you shall be your servant” (v.11). The delusion is complete in the one who seeks his own glory. He will only serve if it gets him attention from men.
If man would only glorify God, all this trouble would be repaired. But because man chooses his own glory, his religion means nothing. Such people as the Pharisees and Lawyers of Jesus day, are the vilest among men and it shows. They steal from widows (v.14), they are full of self-indulgence (v.25), they are lawless and hypocritical (v.28), and murderous. And their end will be hell (15,33). Today, let us go to God privately and seek Him with all of our hearts before it is too late. Let’s check our motives for all that we do. Pray to be heard by God with no care that men see or hear. Give to give to God without any desire that men recognize it. Serve to be like Jesus without the slightest desire that you be repayed. Be satisfied if only God see and exalts you in the last day. Let us give God the glory that He alone is worthy to receive.
Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. – 1 Chronicles 16:28
– Dan Mayfield