The Marks Of A Hypocrite


Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees are the official interpreters of the law of Moses. So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.

Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues. They love to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and to be called ‘Rabbi.’

“Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your spiritual Father. 10 And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.


Jesus liked to use nick-names. He called His disciples “Little-faiths” [one word in the Greek]. He called the Jewish religious leaders ‘Play-actors” or hypocrites. In Matthew 23 Jesus lowers the boom on the Scribes, Pharisees and Jewish religious leaders. As Dr. Warren Wiersbe points out, we are not to assume that all Pharisees were hypocrites. There were about 6,000 in Jesus day and most of them were middle class or upper middle class businessmen. We know that Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea and an unnamed man in Mark 12 were Pharisees that believed in Jesus. They no doubt were a minority. Whereas the Pharisees were noted for their holiness or they separation from sinners [Gentiles], they had become religious dictators and not spiritual leaders.

Jesus gives us a list of five characteristics of the Pharisees, Scribes and Jewish religious leaders…

[1] Jesus said they did not practice what they preach . Note verse 3So practice and obey whatever they tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach.

The lay world loves this verse…I can’t count the times folks have used the verse in reference to me…of course they have altered it a bit, “He does not actually say, “practice what you preach but practice what he teach.” I don’t defend myself because they are right. I preach the pure and perfect word of God. I don’t preach my feeling or opinions. Everything I say can be supported by scripture and if it cannot, I need to retract what I have said. So if I preach the bible, I am preaching a pure ethic. Can I live a pure ethic? No and neither can any other preacher. I do understand that a man loses credibility when he makes no effort to practice what he preaches.

I heard the story of the preacher who accused someone of stealing his bicycle. He berated the congregation and ask that it be returned promptly but when the bike did not show up, he decided to preach a series on the ten commandments. He thought, surely the person who stole my bike when feel guilty when I get to “Thou shall not steal.” The commandment on stealing is number 8 which means “Thou shall not commit adultery” comes before stealing. He announced his text, “Thou shall not commit adultery” and then sudden he remembered where he left his bicycle and let his thought slip out, “Oops, now I remember where my bicycle is.” That preacher shot his credibility. When I was a boy, a neighboring church called a bi-vocational pastor who was a good man a good preacher. The congregation liked him but his wife not only smoke and laid out of church, she wrote bad checks. Some things don’t go together like preaching and writing bad checks.

So what am I to do, lower the standard, preach my practice instead of the perfect word? No, I am to preach the perfect word of God which convicts me of sin. You wouldn’t want to waste your time listening to man who preached what he could practice. Does this mean that I have a license to be sloppy in my spiritual disciplines or to be licentious. No! Jesus is not referring to serious souls who are sincerely trying to live a life that honors him, He is referring here to the insincere, the folks who are playing game, they are acting a part. They are tinsel. They are phony, not real. He is talking about spiritual leaders who are deceiving you. They are not who they pretend to be.

[2] The Jewish Religious Leaders had no compassion on people. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.[v.4]

One of the few times that Jesus gets angry in recorded in Mark 3…Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” Then he turned to his critics and asked, Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him. He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus. [the most unbelievable verse in the bible] An act of kindness and Mercy on Jesus part initiated the conspiracy to have Him executed.

Why was Jesus angry with these folks? Because they had no compassion on the man with a bad arm. They cared about their livestock. They lead them to water on the Sabbath but they did not want the poor man healed on the Sabbath. Jesus was angry at their lack of compassion and the Jewish leaders were angry because Jesus showed compassion. One thing is certain, none of us [preachers or laymen] have any credibility if we don’t have compassion. We must care about people. The Pharisees loved money and used people and that made them hypocrites.

[3] The third thing Jesus said is that they are Actors…Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. The word hypocrite means play actor. These guys were phony, they were not real, they had no integrity, no sincerity. There were simply putting on a show. There are some thing that we have to do to have credibility…

  1. We have to make a sincere effort of practicing what we teach and preach.
  2. We have to have a genuine concern for people.
  3. We have to be real.

[4] The fourth thing Jesus says about the Jewish Religious leaders is they loved respect and recognition. If they were living today, they would want to be called Dr.; they would expect VIP privileges. They had an inordinate desire for recognition.

I served a church my last 18 months in college and it was a good church. I served a couple of small churches while I was in Seminary and I picked up a few pointers during days in college and seminary but my first so called full time church came about three months after I graduated Seminary. This church had a secretary and bulletin, things that I was not accustomed to: he had brotherhood and WMU and there were problems right out of the gate. There were some leaders who wanted to be recognized. Literally, they expected me to mention them from the pulpit and commend them for their service. We are servants as Jesus said, we don’t get commended for doing our duty.

Jesus gave this analogy in Luke 17….“When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, does his master say, ‘Come in and eat with me’? No, he says, ‘Prepare my meal, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat. Then you can eat later.’ And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not. 10 In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.’”

Long story short, I was ignorant to the inordinate craving on the part of professing Christians to get a pat on the head from the pastor. Some people got highly upset with me for not recognizing their contributions and so the youngest of the deacons [34] approached me. He said, “I can see that you are bull headed and you have a lot of pride and I don’t blame you for feeling the way you do, these people are being petty but they are use to being patted on the head by the preacher. I said, “I will pat those on the head they deserve it but I will do it privately, not from the pulpit.” I did not relent. Some of them became good friends and some did not. I put some of the blame on former pastors who had yielded to the pressure but my mentor, Calvin C. Inman rarely commended people from the pulpit.

[5] The Pharisees and Scribes where notorious for tooting their horn. They exalted themselves. All Pharisees brag. You just listen long enough and you will hear them commend themselves about something. We are never to exalt ourselves, never. James said, Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” The Pharisees knew how to pull their own chain and pull each others chain. They had a little mutual admiration going on but Jesus refused to play that game. The best approach is for us to “Humble ourselves.” God can do but He gives us ample time to do it ourselves.

Almost 40 years ago I became friends with a neighboring pastor: he was a pistol. He was every bit of 6’4″ and weighted a good 230. He drove a pinto station wagon; how he got in it is a mystery to me. One Sunday evening he came by the pastorium where we lived and he had a sheet cake in the back of his car that was two feet wide and three long. On top it read, “Happy Anniversary Bro. Rob.” I said, Rob, that is great, the church is recognizing you for being there two years. He said, “There aren’t doing. I had this made at Krogers. I am doing this one but they will get the message. I don’t think they got the message but they later give him a message.

You cannot exalt yourself. You cannot honor yourself.