If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. (James 1:26, NKJV)
This warning from the inspiration’s pen is penetrating, straightforward and universal in application. It strikes at the very heart of self-righteousness and the hypocrisy it so readily breeds. No one is so greatly deceived as he who thinks he is something when he is nothing (Galatians 6:3). James is telling us that what we think about our personal piety does not make it so. Being actively religious does not insure one’s usefulness and acceptability to God. The heart is deceived that thinks the fruit of its lips have no bearing on its virtue. The tongue that wags with backbiting gossip, profane innuendos or contentious murmurings exposes a heart that is not devoted to God. Such language reveals a heart that is devoted to itself. The heart from which such language spews shows it is willing to hurt others (while justifying itself). We must bring our tongues under control by bringing our hearts under control. We do that by looking into the perfect law of liberty and being doers of the word (James 1:22-25).
6 He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. 7 And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Mark 7:6–7, NKJV)
The hypocrisy of Israel was reaching its zenith in the days of Isaiah (Isaiah 29:13-14). Israel gave Jehovah lip service, while serving idols, and demanding their own teachings be regarded as divine truth. This verse gives us God’s definition of a hypocritical heart: While saying one honors God, he elevates his own will above the will of the Almighty. Hypocrisy is pretense, pretending to be what one is not. The Greek word was applied to the actor who wore a mask, pretending to be a character in a drama. Christ applied this term to the Pharisees and scribes of His day. Their words honored God, but their hearts were given over to the commandments of men. The Jews had codified their oral traditions (the Mishnah). These men whom Jesus rebuked judged a violation of their traditions to be a violation of God’s law (see Mark 7:8-9). We must avoid accepting human traditions as if they are the will of God, lest we join hands with the hypocrites of Christ’s day. Revealed truth, not the traditions of men, must guide our hearts and our deeds. Otherwise, our worship will be vain.
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.” (Luke 12:1, NKJV)
The hypocrisy of the Pharisees was regularly exposed by Jesus (Matthew 23). It was hypocritical of them to claim allegiance to God while in practice they elevated their religious traditions above the commands of God, binding them upon others as essential (Matt. 15:1-9). They considered people to be unholy if they did not follow their binding traditions – even viewing Jesus a Sabbath breaker (Matt. 15:1-2; Jno. 5:18). Disciples of Jesus must continue to beware of this sort of hypocrisy. Attempting to honor God with religious traditions that are formulated, advocated and popularized by men as if they were from God, is just as hypocritical today as it was in the first century. Genuine faith does not claim faithfulness to God while laying aside His word for man’s will. Yet, the temptation to do so is great. We see it everywhere; from worship liturgies unknown in Scripture, to denominational churches, doctrines and works that are foreign to the word of God. We see it in the liberal attitudes of inclusion that reject Bible authority for all we say and do (Col. 3:17). Jesus said, “Beware.” Pretending allegiance to God while rejecting His commands in favor of human doctrines is a leaven of destruction (Matt. 15:9).
1 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. 2 For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops. (Luke 12:1–3, NKJV)
Christians are often accused of hypocrisy when they commit a sin. Yet, hypocrisy is not merely committing a sin, it is pretending to be something other than what is real. It is pretense, play-acting, an outward show in order “to create a public impression that is at odds with one’s real purposes or motivations” (Greek-English Lexicon, Arndt, Danker, Bauer, p. 1038). The Pharisees pretended to be pious while their motives were evil. Their outward display of righteousness was empty as they “made the commandment of God of no effect” by the traditions they bound on people (Matt. 15:6-9). As He warns against Pharisaical hypocrisy, Jesus assures us that such sins will be fully exposed. Hypocrisy will not go undetected. Be genuine in your faith. Disciples of Jesus avoid hypocrisy, walking by faith and repenting when they sin against the Lord.
7 Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 8 ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. 9 And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ (Matthew 15:7–9, NKJV)
This is one of Christ’s most stinging rebukes of the religious class of His day. Jesus literally “went to the heart of the matter”, exposing their religious pretense (hypocrisy). The scribes and Pharisees meticulously bound their traditions upon people, treating their traditions as if they were the commandments of God (Matt. 15:1-3). To compound their sin, their traditions also served to convince people they could disobey the commands of God without consequence (Matt. 15:4-6). Such elevation of men’s religious traditions above the word of God is sinful, producing vain worship – empty expressions of devotion to the Almighty. We must have hearts that receive all of God’s word, never elevating any human religious tradition above a “thus saith the Lord”.
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1–5, NKJV)
We will all be judged by Jesus in the last day (2 Cor. 5:10). Therefore, this verse is not teaching us to avoid judgment by never rendering a judgment. Still, many attempt to use verse one to avoid the force of divine truth that calls their conduct into account. The context makes it abundantly clear Jesus is warning against hypocritical judging, not making a blanket condemnation of all forms of judgment. After all, Jesus would later command to “judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Did Jesus command us to sin? No, Jesus did not contradict Himself. The word of God is the revelation of God’s judgments. We let God be the judge by letting His word reprove and rebuke sin (2 Timothy 4:2). His judgments are true and altogether righteous (Psalm 19:9). The question is, will we accept God’s judgment when His word exposes our sin? Or, will we try to deflect personal accountability by saying, “You can’t judge me!” when someone teaches us the truth?