As mentioned a few posts ago Jesus had some very stinging words about the religiously powerful of his day. The Gospel of Mark 7 is one of those places. Lets study some of those words.
He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:” ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
In these verses Jesus was addressing the Pharisees from Jerusalem. These guys, being from Jerusalem were not some radical sect that was divorced from the mainstream Judaism, they were likely the leader of the leaders of the church. I’m sure they were totally shocked to have this carpenter’s son rebuke them so harshly. With that in mind it is not to surprising that they then went on to plan for his execution. They had, I am sure, the belief that they were the spokesman for God, not this lowly peasant.
Jesus told them that they were hypocrites as the humble and poor people who were surrounding him to listen to his messages knew more about God than they did. Jesus told them that their religion was more about human rules than about messages from God. Can you imagine the hate they must have had for Jesus after these strong words?
The religion of Jesus day had devolved into traditions that had little to do with God but instead were implemented to keep the religious hierarchy of the day in power. It was more about man’s rules than God’s. He told them that they do many things against the true teaching of God.
I’m sure there are many in today’s church who consider themselves the leader of the leaders as the Pharisees did. I am also sure that Jesus would say many of the same things against them as he did two thousand years ago. Many have devolved into organizations of human traditions and dogma.
The emergent movement within the church is attempting to force the original messages of Jesus back to front-and-center in today’s church. If they are successful maybe someday the light of Jesus and his true words will again be a shining beacon for the world to look upon.
Charity has always been an important Christian characteristic. Jesus was constantly giving of himself to others. Often times when he did it he said not to tell others about his act. His giving is the reason that we have salvation. Jesus clearly expects us to also have charity, especially to the poor and needy. Here is the verse we will use today to study this concept.
Matt 6:2-4 NIV
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
In these words Jesus makes it clear that we are to give without bringing honor to ourselves. This is one of those places where He called some of the religious of his day hypocrites! Calling church people hypocrites is a common occurrence in today’s church as well. Some of it is well founded; some of it is not. If we give to the needy in order to draw attention to ourselves Jesus says we are hypocrites! We should give so that even we don’t know we are doing it. I don’t know quite how that is supposed to work though 🙂 ? I think it is just human nature that we want others to know the good works we do. But, of course when we do that we might doing it mainly to boost our vane pride. By the words above Jesus says when you do that you have your reward already and don’t expect anything from God for doing it.
As a personal note there is someone I have known most of the life that always makes their giving a very public event! It was always very embarrassing to me to have to witness those acts and the praise they expected to be lavished on them. For that reason I have always tried to live by the red letters above even before I knew of their existence. But I do also often fail when I tell people of my charitable acts. I think I do this to encourage others to also give but maybe I am sometimes doing it to draw attention to myself. So, shame of me when I am a hypocrite with my giving. As the Apostle Paul says sometimes I just can’t seem to do what I know I should do.
The last sentence in these verses says that God will reward us if we give in secret. I’m not really sure just what that reward is? Will it be something in heaven or on earth? I hope it is in heaven. I know there are Christians who are constantly saying things like “yesterday I gave $100 to the needy and today I received an extra $10,000!”. I have always been very uncomfortable with these types people. They seem to be very frequent in some Christian sects today especially among the televangelists. The main message it sends to me is when they do that is to say if you want to be rich then give to the Lord (or to the TV program you are watching). I don’t think that is really what Jesus meant in these verses.
Let’s all pledge to give more to the needy and to keep it a secret.
I am going to take on a hard one here. The big “A”. I have been in a conversation with some Christian friends of mine about the current healthcare reform now being debated in congress and around the country. Some of my friends said the following: “I can’t support this reform as it might allow some to have abortions funded”! I, certainly am also against abortion. It is killing an innocent life and definitely against Jesus’ teachings.
But how do Christian who make abortion a litmus test for everything else answer these typical questions by some:
You Christians only believe in the sanctity of life in the nine months before birth, not in the eighty years or more after birth. You are a bunch of hypocrites!
To support their statement they give the following examples:
- You support killing people who commit certain types of sins (murder, rape, etc). You say Jesus came to die for all of us. That we are all loved by him. Does that include just some sinners and not others? And didn’t God say “Vengeance is mine” not yours?
- You will eliminate the possibility of saving thousands of lives who otherwise be lost to health issues in order to “maybe” save some fetuses. What about all those people who die daily due to not being able to afford healthcare? Are they somehow less important to your god than those yet to be born?
- You condone and often enthusiastically support killing your neighbor in a war simply because your government tells you to kill. It doesn’t matter that they are your “enemy” simply because they were born in a different country than you and are also following what their politicians say!
- Where do you get off classifying which lives are sanctified and which aren’t? You are a bunch of hypocrites!
I don’t know of any pat answers for the above examples. Jesus clearly said that revenge is no longer justified and an eye-for-an-eye is no longer acceptable in the new covenant he brought to us. He told us unequivocally to love our enemies, and turn the other cheek. Again and again in the Bible Jesus tells us to follow his example . To my knowledge Jesus never passed judgment, except for the religious establishment of course, on anyone let alone killing anyone. God said “Do not kill”. My bible doesn’t add “except for time of war or really bad guys”. I definitely think the Amish, Mennonites, and other like minded sects have it right in this regard. About the only thing Jesus killed was a fig tree for not having fruit out of season? I don’t understand that one but will let it slid as it is not important to my following Christ.
Are we Christians being hypocrites when we want to enforce only our limited definition of “Sanctity of Life”? I am tending to think so but I will respect your right to think otherwise. This is a very difficult issue between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world.