A hypocrite is not someone who fails to live up to their stated beliefs. We all do that. Jesus did not call every sinner a hypocrite. He saves it for one particular group- the Pharisees. And His attack on them over and over takes the same line, that their religion is for public consumption.
The word hupocrisis from which we get the word “hypocrite” is related to the concept of acting, someone performing a play. The Pharisees were not hypocrites because they didn’t live up to what they said they believed. They were hypocrites because they didn’t really believe what they said they believed. Jesus describes their hypocrisy as leaven, an almost invisible force that subtly but thoroughly changes the whole enterprise of which it is part. And so Jesus tells us to beware of that hypocrisy.
The hypocrite is guilty of more than just being impious or not religious enough. He is a fool. He believes that he will benefit by fooling men about his religiosity, but he cannot fool God, and it’s God he should be worried about. Everything spoken in secret will be shouted from the rooftops. God will reveal the secrets of men’s hearts, and so the hypocrite is a fool.
Instead of being like the hypocrite, we should throw ourselves without reservation, completely on the providence of God. This whole section of Luke, really starting with the beginning of Jesus’ journey away from Galilee toward Jerusalem is on this subject, of complete commitment. And how else could we understand this:
“But rather seek the kingdom of God, and all these things [material needs] will be added to you.” (Luke 12:31).
Many of us try to have one foot in the kingdom of God and one foot in earthly concerns. Many of us understand our religious activity in terms of what we do on Sunday and maybe Wednesday nights, if we’re devout, but our work and entertainment and everything else is separate. Maybe even I see my work and entertainment and relational choices in some degree constrained by my religious choices, but that’s still different than seeing my whole life choices entirely in the light of my search for the kingdom of God. But this is what Jesus is calling us to.
The man in chapter 12 calling on Jesus to get his brother to divide the inheritance with him is seeking to use religious matters to work gain for him. His priorities were exactly the opposite of what they should have been. And so Jesus tells the story of the rich farmer, pulling his barns down to build bigger ones and saying to his soul, “Soul, take thine ease, eat drink and be merry.” He is saying to his own soul, “Soul, you have everything you need, and now I am satisfied.” But God demonstrates graphically to him that his soul cannot be enriched one bit by the things of this world. I am reminded of a quote from “The Unforgiven”. Clint Eastwood, the old grizzled gunfighter is talking to a young kid:
“It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man. You take away everything he has, and everything he’ll ever have.”
This is exactly what God does to the rich man. In the blink of an eye, all of his material possessions are stripped away, and he stands before God, a naked soul, and what does he have to offer God? What does he have to inoculate himself against the judgment of God? His riches could, in a limited way, protect him from famine, political problems, war, discomfort and sickness. And even that is a sketchy proposition. But they were absolutely no help at all against that which he should have feared above all else- the one who can cast soul and body in hell.
This is why the hypocrite is such a fool. He seeks to please those who have little to offer and little to threaten, and in doing so, he enrages the One who can offer everything, and take it all away. He greatly offends the one who could give him mansions in heaven or an eternity in hell.
Let us seek to please God. Let us seek His kingdom with our lives, desiring every part of our life to reflect our conviction that Jesus is Lord of this earth, now. He has the riches of heaven to pour out on us. Why should we worry about our financial concerns, health concerns, relational concerns? God loves us, He created us, and He knows what we need.
It is an interesting paradox- Jesus tells us in v. 31 to seek the kingdom, and then in v. 32 that it is the Father’s pleasure to give us the kingdom as a gift. Which is it? Both, of course. The process by which we struggle and strive to find the kingdom is the process by which the Lord grants it to us, for we know that it is in the Spirit’s power that we strive, and the Spirit is a gift, a gift that in conjunction with the death of Jesus which makes the Spirit’s work possible is the greatest gift we could ever receive.