The fruit of a life lived in harmony with God’s Word is beneficial to all.
Matthew 5:20 – “For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.”
With these words, Yeshua sets a contrast that he will continue to illustrate over and over in the gospels: the person of integrity will not simply follow outward rules but will be obedient to God from the heart. Through these contrasts which were on display by the majority of the religious establishment, Yeshua demonstrates that the opposite of integrity is not just lawlessness, but hypocrisy.
Matthew 23:2-3 – “The scribes and the Pharisees are seated in the chair of Moses. Therefore do whatever they tell you, and observe it. But don’t do what they do, because they don’t practice what they teach.”
Yeshua had warned about recognizing false teaching by evaluating the fruit of those who teach these things. If their lifestyles did not match what they were teaching about, then they could be ignored.
Matthew 7:15-17 – “Be on your guard against false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit.”
The fruit of the religious leaders of Yeshua’s day had become so corrupt they no longer fairly represented Yahweh, and by their lifestyle they were judged by him as lawless. The third commandment of the Ten is to not take Yahweh’s name in vain, yet their entire religious lives centered on their vanity.
Matthew 23:27-28 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
His condemnation of the leaders was not just a rebellious act against authority, but a condemnation of their hypocrisy. Leaders, by the very nature of their responsibility, must be held to a higher standard.
James 3:1-2 – “Not many should become teachers, my brothers, because you know that we will receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is mature, able also to control the whole body.”
Maturity in a leader is that they will be consistent between what they say and what they do. As believers, we should all be striving for that level of integrity in everything, and as God sees fit, godly leaders will then rise to prominence among his people. The flashy charisma of hypocritical false leaders will be shown for what it is as the fruit of a life that is not truly yielded to God. However, the leaders of integrity will demonstrate a heart for truth and obedience to God’s Word. This is the goal of integrity for all believers: to harmonize truth with actions.
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