What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but you swallow a camel!
What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.
What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.
What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you build tombs for the prophets your ancestors killed, and you decorate the monuments of the godly people your ancestors destroyed. (Matthew 23:23–29)
Let me urge you today to become, as Jesus said, “pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8). Think about what it would mean, what changes you would have to make, what habits you’d have to break . . . most of all, what masks you’d have to peel off.
As I first wrote these words by hand on my yellow legal pad several years ago, my family and I were spending a beautiful Thanksgiving weekend up in the Rockies at a ski resort in Keystone, Colorado. I was invited to speak to about five hundred single adults. Many of them were on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ. What a great bunch they were! All week long, I talked to them about servanthood, emphasizing the importance of being real, authentic, pure-in-heart people. We discussed our tendency to cover up, to say one thing and mean another, to be downright hypocritical—yet in such a clever way that nobody knows it.
Then one night I decided to try something I had never done before to drive the point home. At my last birthday, my sister had given me a full-face rubber mask . . . one of those crazy things that slips over your entire head. She’d told me she would give me ten dollars if I’d wear it into the pulpit one Sunday (my kids raised it to fifteen dollars), but I just couldn’t do it! Well, one night at our conference in Keystone, I decided to wear that ugly beast when I got up to speak. I figured if anybody could handle it, this gang could. It was wild!
I didn’t call attention to it. Without any explanation, I just stood up and began to speak on being authentic. There I stood, pressing on, making one statement after another as the place came apart at the seams. Why?
Anybody knows why! My mask canceled out everything I had to say, especially on that subject. It’s impossible to be very convincing while you wear a mask.
I finally pulled the thing off and the place settled down almost immediately. As soon as it did, everybody got the point. It’s a funny thing, but when we wear literal masks, nobody is fooled. But how easy it is to wear invisible ones and fake out people by the hundreds week after week.
Did you know that the word hypocrite comes from the ancient Greek plays? An actor would place a large, grinning mask in front of his face and quote his comedy lines as the audience would roar with laughter. He would then slip backstage and grab a frowning, sad, oversized mask and come back quoting tragic lines as the audience would moan and weep. Guess what he was called. A hupocritos—one who wears a mask. That’s the exact word Matthew recorded that Jesus used of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:23, 25, 27, 29).
Servants who are “pure in heart” have peeled off their masks. And God places special blessing on their lives.