Thursday, June 8, 2023

Beware of the Leaven (Luke 12)

"Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy" (Luke 12:1).

The trouble with pride is that it takes so many forms. When you think you’ve conquered it in one area of your life, it surfaces in another. When you’ve humbly submitted to God and committed to seek His kingdom above all else, you’re in danger of taking pride in your submission and your obedience. Once you see your need for righteousness, you can easily slip into a pursuit, not of the righteousness of God, but of self-righteousness.

This was the problem with the Pharisees. They knew they needed to obey God’s law and to seek His righteousness, but they got lost somewhere along the way. Pride caused them to stumble. They began to think they could keep His law perfectly, that they could actually become righteous by keeping the law. They went to meticulous lengths to conform to God’s standards, but their obedience could not penetrate to the heart.

Jesus wanted to expose hypocrisy such as this when He preached His Sermon on the Mount. He warned that righteousness is more than external obedience to the commands of God. He explained that obedience had to come from the heart. It means not lusting, not hating your neighbor, not becoming unjustly angry. In a sense Jesus shined a light on the law, revealing its depth, its fullness. In the face of this realization, who could keep the law? This must have been a humbling experience for many of those present. If you really know what it means to keep the law, you can’t help but be humbled.

But the Pharisees had lowered the standards of righteousness. They reduced it to external duties. This is the leaven Jesus warns about in Luke 12:1. Speaking to His disciples before a crowd, He says, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” Hypocrisy spreads like leaven because it puffs people up with pride and makes their sacrifice and their service unacceptable to God. Those who try to please God by merely conforming to the externals of the law, while hiding the sins of their heart, will be discovered. This was the fate of Judas and of Simon Magus. “If men’s religion prevails not to conquer and cure the wickedness of their hearts, it shall not always serve for a cloak,” Henry wrote. “The day is coming when hypocrites will be stripped of their fig-leaves.”

Are you more concerned about the externals of the law and not the spirit? Do you judge others in your heart? Do you love others? Do you pray and study your Bible but fail to serve others by giving up your time? Ask a trusted friend if they see any hypocrisy in your life. Repent of your hypocrisy and serve God with all your heart.