Matthew 9:35-38 – Yeshua continued going around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and helplessly dispersed, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. “Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”
The compassion of Yeshua for the condition of his people is a burden that still lays upon the hearts of those who are his followers today. Everywhere one looks today, people who are sincerely trying to follow God’s ways are distressed and scattered among the masses of false teachings, like sheep among so many wolves.
The compassionate heart seeks to encourage and build one another up in the the common things of the faith once for all delivered to God’s holy ones, not to tear down the feeble faith that they may have. In Matthew’s gospel, quoting the prophet Isaiah, it is said of Yeshua:
Matthew 12:20 – He will not break a bruised reed, and he will not put out a smoldering wick, until he has led justice to victory.
Yeshua did not desire to further damage the bruised reeds nor snuff out a wick that was at least smoldering with the remnants of faith. His care and concern for the lost was evident in his tireless teaching and healings throughout the crowds of people.
Matthew 15:29-32 – …Yeshua passed along the Sea of Galilee. He went up on a mountain and sat there, and large crowds came to him, including the lame, the blind, the crippled, those unable to speak, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he healed them. So the crowd was amazed when they saw those unable to speak talking, the crippled restored, the lame walking, and the blind seeing, and they gave glory to the God of Israel. Jesus called his disciples and said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they’ve already stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry, otherwise they might collapse on the way.”
Yeshua demonstrated compassion on the people because of their lost condition. Those who cannot help themselves deserve our compassion, as well.
However, those who should know better, the leaders of the people, are the ones whom Yeshua confronted.
Matthew 23:13 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you don’t go in, and you don’t allow those entering to go in.
In this extended passage in Matthew 23, Yeshua delivers a scathing denunciation of the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. In this way, he demonstrated that the recipients of doctrinal debate are deserved to be those false shepherds who are continuing to deceive and lead astray, but not the flock members themselves.
When encountering individuals who may be sincere but are not fully conveying the truth of the Way of God, we should privately encourage them and gently offer correction, as Priscilla and Aquila demonstrated with Apollos.
Acts 18:24-26 – Now a Jew named Apollos, a native Alexandrian, an eloquent man who was competent in the use of the Scriptures, arrived in Ephesus. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately about Jesus, although he knew only John’s baptism. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. After Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the way of God to him more accurately.
Following the example of Yeshua, we should demonstrate compassion by praying to the Lord of the harvest for the safety and care of his people, that they would have their eyes opened and come out from under the overbearing error of hypocritical and false teaching. We should likewise reach out by offering assistance where we can to meet the needs of those who are unable to help themselves in those situations. God’s people are a precious possession to him, and we should show the same respect and care for them as he does.
If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.
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Ancient wisdom which provides continual direction and guidance within the will of God.
Proverbs 14:8 – The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.
Vigilance of thought is one of the most challenging yet most rewarding aspects of a believer’s life. The thoughts and plans we have will reveal what is truly in our hearts. To lead a life that is constantly focused on defrauding others or finding ways to exploit relationships is one that is bound to fail. In this proverb, Solomon illustrates this way as “folly.”
According to the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew lexicon, this type of individual demonstrates characteristics of always being morally bad, one who:
despises wisdom & discipline
Proverbs 1:7 – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 15:5 – A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.
mocks at guilt
Proverbs 14:9 – Fools mock at the guilt offering, but the upright enjoy acceptance.
Proverbs 20:3 – It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.
Proverbs 7:7, 10, 21-23 – and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, … And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart. … With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.
it is folly and useless to instruct him
Proverbs 16:22 – Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it, but the instruction of fools is folly.
Proverbs 27:22 – Crush a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his folly will not depart from him.
All of this speaks to the foolishness of the one who rejects wisdom and discipline. The proverb goes further, though, and explains that fools are deceiving. They will operate from a base of deception and exploitation of the weakness of others. Their continual mode of operation is selfish gain with no regard for the harmful effects on others. This in itself is a mode of self-deception, as well; thinking one can always simply manipulate a situation for their own gain.
By contrast, those believers who are vigilant in all their ways will seek to avoid these dead-ends of life by “discerning their way.” The Hebrew word for discerning means “to consider, perceive, understand, distinguish, have insight.” Just reviewing this list of words demonstrates that to discern one’s ways is a practice that takes time and careful thought. Fools may rush in, as the old saying goes, but it’s the wise who take their time to review the consequences of their actions. Only then will they take the appropriate course of action.
One of the key benefits of this practice that I have seen in my own life is having peace about momentous decisions which need to be made. When I feel pressured to make a big decision about something, whether it is a large purchase or a career move, I have learned to ensure that I do not arrive at a hasty decision. Anything that presents itself as urgent immediately goes into a “consideration buffer.” Through meditation on God’s word and through prayer, the correct ways will ultimately present themselves.
The apostle Paul related this principle to the Ephesian congregation, as well.
Ephesians 5:15-18 – Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to reckless indiscretion. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
He represents how paying careful attention to how a believer should walk involves understanding the Lord’s will and being filled with the Spirit. Being vigilant with our actions means that we are taking the time to involve God in all of our decisions in life. We are examples to others of how God’s goodness and mercy watch over us and protect us from every false way.
Psalm 119:103-104 – How sweet your word is to my taste — sweeter than honey in my mouth. I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every false way.
Psalm 119:127-128 – Since I love your commands more than gold, even the purest gold, I carefully follow all your precepts and hate every false way.
Hating every false way means there is a high dependence on the truth of God’s word. If Paul related the days were evil in his day, how much more we need to vigilantly follow his advice, and the advice of Solomon and the Psalmist, today: “Pay careful attention as to how you walk, discerning your way, carefully following God’s precepts.”
If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive at https://core-of-the-bible.simplecast.com/ or your favorite podcast streaming service. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at email@example.com.
We need to constantly be on guard against false teaching and exposing those who are leading others astray.
In this episode we will be exploring the topic of vigilance, and how we need to constantly be on guard against false teaching and exposing those who are leading others astray. For us to do so, we must be able to accurately identify them.
Yeshua stated it this way:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” Matthew 7:15-20
A way of paraphrasing this can be expressed as: Beware of deceitful religious impostors. You will recognize them for what they truly are by looking closely at the results of their words and actions.
Vigilance involves being on guard against all manner of deception to avoid following a false way.
Job 15:34-35 “For the company of the godless is barren, And fire consumes the tents of the corrupt. “They conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity, And their mind prepares deception.”
Ephesians 5:6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
1 John 2:26 These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you.
Romans 16:17-18 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.
Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.
2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 13 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity [of devotion] to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear [this] beautifully. … For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.
Believers are warned over and over again to avoid deception and be sure that they are not being led astray.
If it was true for them in their day, how much more this is timely advice in this current day and age! We have become inundated with information overload; we must carefully pick and choose the sources of our teaching to ensure we are remaining on the narrow path laid out for us.
This admonition of Yeshua to beware of false prophets was of utmost importance to his first-century flock, as the nation was full of those who would try to gain a hearing, and a living, from the ignorant and willing among them.
Mark 13:22 – For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.
1 John 4:1 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Thankfully, Yeshua provided a touch-stone, a type of verification of identity of false teaching and those who promote it: “You will recognize them by their fruits.” Their fruits are their actions and their words; do they align with what they are promoting? Do they align with the Word of God?
The apostle Peter had no shortage of words for the deceivers that were prevalent in his day. What he has laid out in a few verses in his second epistle can provide us an outline of identifiers of false teaching.
2 Peter 2:1-3 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
In this passage, the apostle vividly expanded on describing more specifically what some of those fruits of false teachers are that Yeshua mentioned as the method of identifying them.
denying Yeshua as Messiah
exploitation of believers
speaking against the way of truth
What are the fruits of Bible teachers today? Can their doctrine and their lifestyles be matched up to this list that Peter has provided us? I believe that by taking a closer look at Peter’s outline and asking some relevant questions, we may begin to put together a picture of what these false teachers look like, how they act, and what they are erroneously teaching.
THE WAY OF TRUTH
One of the key indicators that Peter provides is that among false teachers the way of truth will be blasphemed. Depending on the version being quoted, this is variously represented as maligning or speaking evil of the way of truth. Since, as believers, we are very anxious to make sure we are following the way of truth, we can start with this identifier.
First, let’s see how the Bible defines this way of truth. Yeshua taught:
Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
John 14:3-6 “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, [there] you may be also. “And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
So we see Yeshua identified himself and his teaching as being a key to understanding the way and the truth which leads to life.
The apostle Paul, when confronted by his accusers that he was abandoning the law of Moses, says:
Acts 24:14 “But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and that is written in the Prophets…”
Based on these few passages, the Way (or the way of truth) can be discerned as “a way of life based on God’s word culminating in the teaching and life of his Messiah.” So if people are speaking against God’s Word or the Messiah as the fulfillment of his Word, they are blaspheming this way of the truth that God has revealed.
Now you might be saying, “Well how can Bible teachers be speaking against God’s Word or the Messiah? Isn’t that what they teach?” Well, it would seem so, but there are ways they can still speak against God’s word while claiming to teach it.
For example, many groups today teach that the law or sections of the law have been abolished and no longer apply to believers today; things like food laws or observation of the Sabbath, or God’s annual calendar days. They teach that Yeshua’s death on the cross did away with everything prior from the Old Testament; essentially three-fourths of the Bible they carry around has been nullified! But this maligns God’s Word and his Messiah, since Yeshua was very clear that this would not be the case.
Matthew 5:17-19 “Don’t think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass away from the law until all things are accomplished. “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever does and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
For something to be fulfilled is not the same thing as being abolished. Because there is so much confusion over these points, I will be doing some future studies on how we can know which laws have been fulfilled (but never abolished) and which ones are designed to be fulfilled only as we fulfill them in our lives. Understanding these distinctions brings the whole of God’s word into the vitality of our relationship with God. All of God’s Word is for all believers in all ages.
But this process of picking and choosing what we are going to follow from God’s word is one of the main ways that his Word is maligned and blasphemed today. We need to be on guard to identify these aspects with those whom we consider teachers among us.
QUESTIONS FOR EVALUATING TEACHERS
Regarding the other characteristics or fruits of false teachers that Peter warns about, here are some questions to consider that may provide further insight into false teachers and their doctrine.
Secrecy or stealth (v. 1): Are the teachers promising a secret message “just for you” or for only a limited few among the group? Do they promote secret practices that only certain people can be privy to? Do they have a hidden agenda that underlies a more favorable public message? Do they have a different lifestyle in private than they are in public? Hidden motives and secrets are a key indicator of false teachers.
Denying Yeshua as Messiah (v. 1): the word means to contradict or disown Yeshua. Is Yeshua not central to their doctrine? Is Yeshua just one path among many to God? Do their teachings contradict what Yeshua taught, but still sound “biblical” and reasonable? This applies to what we previously mentioned about speaking evil of the Way.
Sensuality (v. 2): the word conveys more of a meaning of rejecting restraint, committing acts or saying things that are shocking to public decency. Are these teachers’ lives bad examples on public display? Are expressions of riotous behavior acceptable within the group dynamic? Are clear commands of God being downplayed or eradicated?
Covetousness and Greed (v. 3): Are they constantly asking for money to assist in their “ministry” and for goods and properties that do nothing in the cause of helping those in need or sharing the good news of the kingdom? Do they live a lavish lifestyle on the contributions of the congregation? This ties closely with the next indicator of exploitation.
Exploitation (v. 3): This word also implies “to trade in,” as if their followers are a commodity to be used. Are they taking advantage of believers’ trust through their greed? Are they manipulative and seeking to be in control? Are the members of the group being pressured to donate unreasonable amounts of their time and money to support their lifestyle?
False words (v. 3): Are they making false promises that never come to pass? Are they creating artificial or fictitious scenarios to lure people further into deception? Simply put, are they just making stuff up and passing it off as God’s truth?
Yeshua declares the end of false teachers or “every tree that does not produce good fruit” as being “cut down and thrown into the fire,” (Matt. 7:19). While they may look good on the surface, they will not survive their worldly aspirations designed only to better themselves. While the context of Yeshua’s statement applied to the coming destruction of the corrupt system of his day, in no way does that diminish God’s view of those who are promoting falsehood and tradition over the Word of God today.
Psalm 119:29, 128 Remove the false way from me, And graciously grant me Your law [torah]. … Therefore I esteem right all Your precepts concerning everything, I hate every false way.
Believers are right to hate every false way when we recognize it. This is a built-in zeal for righteousness that believers cultivate as they yield to God’s Word and the inspiration of his Spirit. This zeal yearns for the truth to be known and for right ways to prevail over injustice and deception.
Instead of simply going along with these aberrational doctrines and practices, we should be vigilant and dedicated to exposing the falsehood of their teachings. We need to be bold enough to confront and expose these unfruitful deeds, as Paul explains to the Ephesians.
Ephesians 5:6, 11, 15-16 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. … Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; … Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.
CONFRONTING FALSE TEACHERS
To expose these falsehoods is to rebuke and chasten the ones who hold to deception, demonstrating the falsity of their claims so that others will not be mislead by them. Those who blatantly teach falsehoods need to be aggressively confronted and shown to be in error. This was the pattern of Yeshua and his disciples.
Yeshua did not hesitate to confront the error of the religious leaders of his day.
Matthew 23:27-28, 33 “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. … “Snakes! Brood of vipers! How can you escape being condemned to hell?
Matthew 21:12 – Jesus went into the temple and threw out all those buying and selling. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves.
The early believers also carried this essential teaching of Yeshua into their congregations. We have already seen how Peter called out false teachers; and here we can see how Jude, in like fashion, and almost the same wording as Peter, expressed the need for this vigilance among believers. The whole letter of Jude is essentially a diatribe against false teaching. Here are some excerpts:
Jude 1:4, 8, 11-13, 16, 19 For some people … have come in by stealth; they are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into sensuality and denying Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord. … In the same way these people – relying on their dreams – defile their flesh, reject authority, and slander glorious ones. … Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, have plunged into Balaam’s error for profit, and have perished in Korah’s rebellion. These people are dangerous reefs at your love feasts as they eat with you without reverence. They are shepherds who only look after themselves. They are waterless clouds carried along by winds; trees in late autumn – fruitless, twice dead and uprooted. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shameful deeds; wandering stars for whom the blackness of darkness is reserved forever. … These people are discontented grumblers, living according to their desires; their mouths utter arrogant words, flattering people for their own advantage. …These people create divisions and are worldly, not having the Spirit.
If we don’t have this same type of view of false teachers, we are destined to be weighted down with bad doctrine in every generation. We need to be bold enough to confront these teachers and to hold them accountable to the truth of God’s Word and the Way of Messiah.
HELPING OTHERS WHO ARE CAUGHT UP IN FALSE TEACHING
Now, as much as I would love to end on such a fiery denunciation of falsehood, I feel compelled to provide further insight on the general membership of believers who have become caught up in their rhetoric. Because we know how destructive falsehood can be, it is quite natural for us to become emotionally upset with those who promote doctrine and beliefs that are not true. However, in the same way we are commanded to be vigilant in confronting teachers of falsehoods, we are also commanded to be respectful and balanced toward those who may be led astray by them. As believers it is our duty to call out the false teachers among our ranks, but to be helpful with love and gentleness to those who have followed false teaching.
To this end, Paul encouraged Timothy to select leaders who could be firm, but not bullying or quarrelsome.
1 Timothy 3:2-3 An overseer, therefore, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not an excessive drinker, not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy.
2 Timothy 2:23-26 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses [and escape] from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
Paul intimates here that those who are holding to falsehood are in need of “coming to their senses.” The word is used to describe those who are in need of sobering up from intoxication. They have become captive to false ideas that cause them to act in ways that are adversarial to the will of God and the way of truth.
Confrontation is never easy; if it is, then you’re not doing it right, or you have some further self-examination to do. Confronting falsehood effectively takes maturity and diplomacy, which is why Paul was instructing Timothy to ensure that potential leaders have qualities of balance and maturity.
This level-headedness was sorely needed in the volatile environment of first-century Palestine where conflict, both civil and religious, was rampant.
INTERACTING WITH FALSEHOOD AROUND US IN OUR CULTURE
Our current environment, at least here in the American society, appears to be moving in a similar direction. While our primary focus of correcting falsehood should be aimed at those within the ranks of the Kingdom of God, we are equally challenged with the turbulence of the current secular age, where mere opinion and personally-defined rights are flaunted and shouted as if they were to be recognized as legitimate by all. Bitter divisiveness exists on every topic where vanguards of common sense and respectful dialogue are thrown to the ground and savagely trampled. It is tempting and easy for us to fall into the same pattern of degradation of communication in an effort to stem the onslaught of so much negative and false information.
However, we are called to a higher standard in our interactions with others, especially those outside the kingdom. We are to be doers and makers of peace, not dissenters stoking the flames of bitter rivalry and mistrust. It is our job to resist without engaging, to simply stand firm while holding out the truth of the Way.
Our message is a message of hope and peace which cannot be adequately communicated by the tip of the sword. We have to remember that those outside the kingdom do not hold to the same standards, values, or worldview we have. To try to force them to adopt ways that are foreign to them only fans the flames of bitterness, distrust, and mockery they may feel towards us. Freedom of speech, whether theirs or ours, is no right to force others to adopt personal and subjective views.
Instead, we need to exhibit love towards those around us in an effort to demonstrate that we are not their enemies, but their helpers desiring only what’s best for them. We have to believe that the message and wisdom of the Bible, exemplified through our loving actions, is capable of drawing and leading them toward God.
Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. “No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
We have much work to do in being vigilant about the truth of God, especially when it comes to confronting false teaching. Look at the fruits of your teachers: what they promote or endorse, how they esteem the Word of truth. By reviewing the principles outlined by Yeshua and his disciples, we can become more aware of the falsehoods being promoted within the kingdom, and emboldened to confront false teachers with wisdom and diligence.
Our brothers and sisters who have been led astray also need to be confronted, but in gentleness and with love, as many times they have only been doing what they have been taught or brought up to believe.
Our vigilance needs to be not only in identifying and overcoming falsehood within our ranks, but equally toward being faithful with outsiders in exhibiting the truths we have come to know and believe in. This can be a challenging balancing act: guarding and protecting the inside while actively promoting the truth on the outside, and accomplishing both with the balance of wisdom and love.
Yet this is our lot in life, our calling. As masterfully and aggressively as Yeshua fought for truth within the ranks of the leaders of Israel, he equally demonstrated a compassionate quest for sharing that truth with the lost and wandering sheep. Our goals should align with his in each culture and generation. This is how the kingdom is not only maintained internally, but how it grows externally. Our vigilance in these areas provides for the continuation of the truths of God’s message to all people for all time.
If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hypocrisy is denounced by Yeshua in the context of using fair standards for critically, yet constructively, helping others.
In this episode we will be exploring the topic of integrity, and how people of integrity understand and avoid the dangers and deception of hypocrisy.
Yeshua stated it this way: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5
In other words, the basic takeaway is: Don’t be hypocritical.
But did you know there is actually more to this passage than just that? This admonition falls within the larger context of Yeshua’s teaching of judgment of others. Everyone is really good at quoting Matt.7:1 when they are attempting to defend something they are doing that is viewed critically by others:
Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.
“See,” they will say, “you shouldn’t judge others.”
Well, yes and no.
If we are finding ourselves critical of others, it is definitely safer to not pass judgment, as Yeshua points out. However, the next verse has an interesting facet to it:
Matthew 7:2 “For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.
Yeshua seems to be focusing not as much on the act of judgment itself, but the standard by which one is judging others. Is it a fair standard? He then elaborates that thought with our spotlight verses today:
Matthew 7:3-5 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”
Ah, now we have the nugget of wisdom. Yeshua is saying that, in order to remove the speck in our friend’s eye, that is, in order to judge them fairly and help them, we need to ensure we have no logs in our own. Then we will see well enough in order to be a fair judge of our friends. Otherwise, if we are not willing to remove the log in our own eye, then we should not judge at all, or we will be judged.
That’s a little different meaning than you may be used to, isn’t it?
You see, it’s very easy for believers today to remove themselves from all controversy by simply saying, “I’m not one to judge,” thinking they are upholding Matt. 7:1. However, what they are really doing is going against the meaning of the passage, as Yeshua’s main point is NOT the “not judging,” but the “seeing clearly” to provide fair judgment. Because when we provide fair judgment, we are representing God’s interests in this world in a way that honors him.
God has charged his people with dominion over all things.
Genesis 1:28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
In the creation story, after Adam and Eve have partaken of the tree, he says, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil…” This ability for man to discern critically between right and wrong is in one sense how we have been created in God’s image.
Genesis 3:6 …the woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom…
See, Eve was thinking all of these very critical thoughts prior to taking the fruit; the fruit did not give her the capacity to think critically, it was already inherent within her.
The symbolism of the story is that the discerning ability of man was corrupted by the desires of the flesh: a craving for food, a preoccupation with beauty and form, and a curiosity for secret wisdom outside of God’s allotted provision.
Being created in God’s image, man has natural tendencies to judge between right and wrong. However, the story of Adam and Eve illustrates how living in this world skews those natural tendencies toward potentially harmful outcomes. She was seduced by the serpent, representing fleshly desires which are adversarial to God and his purpose. The wisdom of God becomes eclipsed by what confronts us by our senses in the natural world, and we lose sight of his righteous standards.
Therefore, Yeshua says we many times end up with these “logs” in our eyes, where we get caught up in the fleshly standards of the world, and we can no longer see clearly to correctly discern between right and wrong. In this state, we are unable to be of real assistance to those around us in need. And as believers, if we remain oblivious to our shortcomings, we then begin to act hypocritically saying we believe one thing while doing another, and thereby defaming the Name of God.
If we end up defaming his name, this is actually a violation of the third commandment: “Do not take the name of Yahweh in vain, or to no purpose.” Remember, our goal is to faithfully represent him in this world, since we have been created in his image. I believe that this is one of the main reasons why Yeshua is so emphatic that we avoid hypocrisy at all cost.
What I find fascinating is that hypocrisy is readily understood by all people. No matter a person’s social standing or culture, hypocritical actions are the basis of lost trust, strained work relations, and broken friendships. Within each individual there must be a built-in, deep desire for fairness and justice, otherwise hypocrisy in and of itself would be meaningless. Recognizing hypocritical actions demonstrates how all people, regardless of religious beliefs or backgrounds have the ability to discern a measure of rightness or equity. This is part of who we have been created to be, a type of moral and spiritual DNA that is evident in each person.
The driving factor of hypocrisy tends to be selfish preservation.
While I was recently reading an article regarding hypocrisy, the comments of the author, a neuroscientist Phd by the name of Erman Misirlisoy over at medium.com, caught my attention as it relates to this topic. He states it this way:
“Self-interest is the most obvious reason for any of us to act like hypocrites. When people are questioned about why they act in conflict with their own stated moral standards, many will say that the personal costs are enough to outweigh the intention to act morally. Essentially, we all want to act fairly until we are put on the spot and are facing our own personal consequences.”
Makes sense; after all, who wants to be accountable for getting caught at doing something we have openly condemned in others?
The kicker is, as Misirlisoy continues, that hypocrites are actually judged more harshly than flat out liars, and he provides a possible reason why.
“One strong explanation relates to false signaling. In essence, hypocrites employ a double layer of deception in their immoral acts — one more layer than the basic liars who simply say they’ve acted morally when they haven’t. When we hypocritically condemn someone’s immoral behavior, we disguise our personal misbehavior with a veil of persuasiveness or manipulation. It’s easier to see through an outright lie than a hypocrite’s condemnation. On top of that, a hypocrite has brought another person into the game. Instead of directly denying their immorality, the hypocrite sneakily implies they are good by attempting to shame someone else. This is a recipe for hatred when caught out…Overall, it backs up the idea that we have a greater tolerance for liars than we have for hypocrites. Hypocrites are like a special type of liar who puts extra effort into disguising their misbehavior and sending us false signals of moral superiority. Those false signals drive our contempt.”
When someone doesn’t hold themselves to the same standards they expect of others, they reveal a moral deficiency that invalidates their position. They can become blinded to the true state of any given situation, and then callously pursue their own agenda.
This is why this practice is so strongly condemned by Yeshua. He openly called out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. In the 23rd chapter of Matthew, he publicly called them hypocrites at least 8 times in front of the assembled crowd and his disciples.
Matthew 23:13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.
This passage in full shows the depth of Yeshua’s passionate contempt for the duplicity of the religious leaders and their disdain for the truth of God’s Word.
He also cautioned his disciples to recognize and avoid this characteristic of the religious leaders.
Luke 12:1 … He began saying to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”
The disciples then picked up this recognition of hypocrisy and continued to caution the early believers from falling into the same trap.
Romans 12:9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
James 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.
1 Peter 2:1-3 Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
Hypocrisy undermines the integrity of those who exemplify it.
This is why it is critical that we as believers maintain a consistent and honest walk in all matters of any moral depth. It is only when we ensure we have no logs in our own eyes, then we will be able to see clearly to take the speck out of someone else’s eye.
Additionally, our ability to maintain our integrity reflects on the One whom we represent, and the kingdom he is establishing. When our integrity is intact, we then have the clarity of vision to keep our own way pure, and also to provide that exemplary guidance as a light to others.
If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at email@example.com.
There are two parts to vigilance in our understanding of the faith: thoroughly knowing the torah or instruction of God and knowing from whom the Word is being taught.
…evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it.
2 Timothy 3:13-14
Paul is emphatic with his protoge Timothy, and is cautioning him in being fully aware of the deceivers who were infiltrating the ranks of the fledgling Messianic Kingdom movement. Paul emphasizes that the deceivers would make themselves known not just by their teaching, but by their lifestyles and their actions.
For [these] men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people.
2 Timothy 3:2-5
These were the corrupt Jews who were coming against the teachings of the Messiah and the apostolic communities that were growing amidst the synagogues of the first century. One has only to read the denunciations or “woes” of Yeshua against these individuals to know who they were.
Matthew 23:15, 23, 27 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. … “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. … “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Luke 11:42-43, 46, 52 “But woe to you Pharisees! for you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! for you love the best seat in the synagogues and salutations in the market places. … And he said, “Woe to you scribes also! for you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. … Woe to you scribes! for you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”
They were hypocrites; they had “the form of religion but were denying its power” as Paul writes. As a contrast to this corruption, Paul instructs Timothy to look at the example of his own life and conduct.
Now you have observed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions, my sufferings, what befell me at Antioch, at Ico’nium, and at Lystra, what persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. … But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 3:10-11, 14-15
There are two parts to vigilance in our understanding of the faith: thoroughly knowing the torah or instruction of God and knowing from whom the Word is being taught. If you are not aware of the actual lifestyles and practices of your teachers, you must exercise caution in what they are promoting. However, the complement to that is, if you are thoroughly familiar with the Scriptures (and I mean the Scriptures, not just what a certain denomination teaches about the Scriptures), then you will have balance in being able to accurately evaluate anyone’s representation of the Word of God.
If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.
Lying and falsehood have no place among believers of the truth.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Telling an intentional falsehood for personal gain is the simplest way to subvert any institution. Jealousy and selfish ambition lie at the root of deception. Recognizing this, and knowing the tendency of men to preserve themselves at all costs, God built in to the kingdom charter, the Ten Commandments, a specific command about not bearing a false witness against another.
Knowing that this was an unfortunate reality that would have to be dealt with, once a falsehood was found out by the judges, God had also provided a definitive way of handling the offender.
“If a malicious witness comes forward and accuses someone of a crime, then both the accuser and accused must appear before the LORD by coming to the priests and judges in office at that time. The judges must investigate the case thoroughly. If the accuser has brought false charges against his fellow Israelite, you must impose on the accuser the sentence he intended for the other person. In this way, you will purge such evil from among you. Then the rest of the people will hear about it and be afraid to do such an evil thing.
So the punishment for the crime of falsifying a report was to apply to the deceiver the same action he intended for the other, and to do so publicly. In this way, a deterrent to falsification would be established within the community.
As God’s kingdom was moving from the natural to the spiritual, the arbiter was moving from the external judges seat to within the heart of every believer.
And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.
This is why James could speak so harshly to the remnant about the corrupting influences that could disrupt the community of God.
If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.
James relates that selfish boasting and lying could be used to hide the truth, and were not within the wisdom of God.
The apostle Paul used the analogous contrast of the “old man” and the “new man” of the heart. As believers’ hearts were renewed, it was as if there was a new person who could only do what was right, and who would stand in judgment of the practices of the old man.
…that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, putting away lying, “[Let] each one [of you] speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.
The encouragement to truthful dealings within the community was to be based on this newness of righteousness and holiness of heart. Because of this community in which all were “members of one another,” that is, parts of an integral body, they were to always provide a truthful and honest example in everything, with everyone, in all of their words and actions.
In like fashion today, believers in Messiah, who was the embodiment of truth, should have this virtue imbedded deep within our hearts. Instead of deception and falsehood should come forth righteousness and truth.
If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week I take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.