In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.  For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.” Luke 12:1-2 (NKJV)

Anytime Jesus starts a sentence with “Beware…” we ought to pay attention. We ought to pay careful attention. Notice who Jesus is telling to beware. He’s talking to His disciples. The warning Jesus gives is for those who have chosen to follow Him.  Jesus tells us to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy. Let me explain a bit about leaven and hypocrisy.

Leaven consisted of a lump of old dough in a high state of fermentation, which was mixed into a mass of dough. There are two characteristics that make it important in the context of hypocrisy. The first is that it works from within. What that means for us is that hypocrisy is a matter of the heart. A person who acts in hypocritical ways does so because that person is a hypocrite in their heart. The outward actions of hypocrisy simply reflect the inner reality. The second characteristic of leaven is that it is very infective. In fact, Scripture warns that a little leaven leavens the whole lump (Galatians 5:9). What that means for us is that hypocrisy in one area of life will eventually spread to all areas of our life. The moment we allow, and/or justify, hypocrisy in one area of our lives we set ourselves up to become hypocrites in all areas of our lives

We can see why Jesus warned us about leaven. But what about hypocrisy? Originally a hypocrite was an actor playing a part. In the Gospels the word hypocrite always has a negative meaning because they are actors playing a part. However instead of playing a part on stage, they are playing a part in life. They are playing the part of being devoted to God when they really weren’t. Jesus consistently dealt more harshly with hypocrites than He did with prostitutes and tax collectors, which were considered to be the worst sinners of all.

Jesus said that…

Hypocrites shall receive the greater damnation (Matthew 23:14).

Hypocrites are children of hell (Matthew 23:15).

Hypocrites are fools and blind (Matthew 23:17, 19).

Hypocrites are blind guides (Matthew 23:24).

Hypocrites are full of extortion and excess (Matthew 23:25).

Hypocrites are full of all uncleanness (Matthew 23:27).

Hypocrites are serpents, a generation of vipers (Matthew 23:33).

Hypocrites shall not escape the damnation of hell (Matthew 23:33).

That is all really, really bad.

I’ve heard it said that in one way or another we are all hypocrites. The reason for this is because in one way or another we all fail to live up to values we profess to hold. Personally I disagree with this statement. The reason I disagree is because a hypocrite wasn’t someone who tried and failed. A hypocrite was one who didn’t try at all. A hypocrite is only concerned about appearing devoted to Jesus, not about being devoted to Jesus. If you are more concerned about how you appear than what you really are, then you may well be a hypocrite. On the other hand, if you are genuinely more concerned about what you are than how you appear, but you just fail to live up to it sometimes, then you probably are NOT a hypocrite.

One of the reasons that Jesus tells us to beware of hypocrisy is that hypocrisy will eventually be found out (verse 2).  The Bible repeatedly warns about this.

We are told to be sure that our sin will find us out (Numbers 32:23).

We are told that a life of duplicity eventually destroys us (Proverbs 11:3).

We are warned that while some people’s sins are clearly evident preceding them to judgment, the sin of others followers later (1 Timothy 5:24).

The hypocrite will always be found out. No matter how hard we try to hide our hypocrisy, it will always come out eventually. This is why we must be devoted to Jesus not merely appear devoted to Jesus. How can we beware of hypocrisy so that we can be devoted to Jesus and not merely appear devoted to Jesus? That’s what I plan to blog about for the rest of the week.


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