This Week's Article

This Week's Article

 

From Lips to Life

By Colly Caldwell

   “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. And in vain they worship Me teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’” (Mark 7:6-7).

   It seems that almost every day there is a new video clip on television showing a senator or representative, a governor or big-city mayor doing the exact opposite of what he/she has legislated for all citizens under his authority. This pandemic has brought to light the true character in many of our leaders. And not only are politicians guilty, but activists for almost any cause you can name fall into the same categories of inconsistencies. There seems to be an attitude among leaders that says, “This is what you should do, but I don’t have to!” It is hard to take speeches seriously when actions deny their importance. When the general population is expected to restrict themselves, it seems those setting the standards should live up to them also.

   In Jesus’ day, He called out the scribes and the Pharisees for being hypocrites. They were the religious leaders of the Jewish people and yet they personally did what they forbade the people to do. Listen to some excerpts from Jesus’ words as recorded by Matthew (verses found in chapter 23):

 

   14 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers.” [How contradictory is that?]

   16 "Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.'” [Do you see a pattern emerging?]

   23 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” [So similar to the manipulation of laws and values in our world.]

   25 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.” [Do you see the personal corruption in this?]  

   27 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead [men's] bones and all uncleanness. 28 "Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” [Their optics were spot on to others but Christ saw through them.]

   We are rightly disgusted when we see such hypo-crisy but perhaps we should be circumspect and offer a word of caution. While they said the right things (often) and set the bar high for others, they did not live up to it themselves. And so may we.

 

   No doubt we are all hypocrites in some ways at some times. It is a forever challenge to maintain our moral and ethical consistency. We all fail to meet our own standards. But don’t use that as an excuse. It is merely a reality. And don’t allow our spiritual radar to fail us when we point it at ourselves.

   We may attend every service for a lifetime. We may hear the sermons, sing the hymns, even take the Lord’s Supper every Sunday we are alive. We may memorize many verses of Scripture and go to Bible study weekly. We may give to the Lord’s work and to many charities. We may say all the right things about God, Jesus, the church, and the doctrine of faith. But if what comes from our lips doesn’t reach into our hearts and lives, we will never please Jesus. The Lord wants His influence to go from our lips to our lives.

   God wants us to praise Him with our lips. He can use our lips to declare His message. “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). But even the gospel message, as powerful as it is, can be lost on a wayward soul if what he sees in us is an empty message that does not also come from our hearts. Jesus must not only have been issuing a critique of their own failures, but a warning of the ill effects of their hypocrisy upon others. So the need of moving what is on our lips to our lives.

   What greater influence would the scribes and Pharisees have had upon the people of their day if they had not prayed vocally and pretentiously and if they had not given their alms to be seen of men? And what greater influence will we have if our religion goes from our lips to our lives?