Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Beware of leaven.

Under these circumstances, after so many thousands of people had gathered together that they were stepping on one another, He began saying to His disciples first of all, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops. (Luke 12:1-3 NASB)

"Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy," Jesus told the crowd. Leaven is a substance such as yeast that causes fermentation of dough or batter. When fermentation occurs, it causes the dough to expand (or rise). A tiny pinch of yeast will quickly spread through an entire bowl of dough. The word translated as hypocrisy is hypokrisis. It can also be translated as play acting or dissimilation (becoming unlike).

The Pharisees, Jesus was saying, were play-acting their faith and, as a result, they were becoming less like God instead of more like Him. As representatives of God to a lost world, the example they gave was worse than no example at all. Beware of their example, Jesus said. If you aren't paying attention, you will become just like them. 

The problem, of course, is that hypocrisy is much easier than living a life of faith. Being a disciple requires that I give up my desires to follow Christ, when I would rather do what I want. That's what had happened to the Pharisees. They had studied the law so long that they could quote it easily, and were experts at enforcing the law. When it came to obeying the law, they weren't so good. 

What they had done was pick and choose. They decided which laws they would follow. They tithed the mint in their garden, but didn't care about widows and orphans. Tithing mint is easily accomplished. Providing for widows and orphans requires an ongoing commitment to their care. Putting money in the offering boxes was easy to do. Having a heart that was humble and pure was much harder.

It's the same for us. At least it is for me. Giving money is much easier than loving my enemies and praying for those who despitefully use me, isn't it? Teaching what God says is much easier than having an humble, teachable spirit that gives God all the credit and leaves none for myself. It's easier to put on my "Sunday clothes" and go to church with the same attitude I have for going to the grocery store than to arrive with a heart eager to hear from God, willing to renounce my sin and embrace the purity only God can give.

I want to be done with hypocrisy. 

I don't like it in others and I don't want it in me. 

But I'm a Pharisee. 

I do what I don't want to do. I think what I don't want to think. I don't do what I know I should. Like Paul, I think woe is me. Who will separate me from this?

Only Christ. 

Paul said that, what the law could not do, God did in sending Jesus. Through Him, we are made clean and kept clean. It's a choice we must make every day. Will we allow Jesus to cleanse us? Will we follow Him? Will we walk the path of the Pharisees or will we walk the road of Calvary, where His will becomes ours and we become one with Him?

If we want to be real disciples, and not just Pharisees, we will follow the road Christ set before us, in the way He walked it, humbly, putting the will of God before our own. It's not always easy, but it's worth it.