The Hypocrites are Hungry

May 23, 2021

Josh Pollard

Jesus warned us about hypocritical religious leaders. Here is how to recognize them so that you can Beware!

The Hypocrites are Hungry

May 23, 2021

Josh Pollard

Jesus warned us about hypocritical religious leaders. Here is how to recognize them so that you can Beware!


Hi everyone. My name is Josh Pollard and I am the Adult ministries Pastor Here at Renovation Church.

After a short break last week, we are back in our verse-by-verse study of the Book of Luke this week where we are finishing up Chapter 20 so you can go ahead and open a Bible to Luke 20 now. If you don’t happen to have a Bible you can use the bible under the chair in front of you where we will be on page 719 (Ren church ap>Bible> weekly verses). And if you don’t own a Bible, you can even just keep that Bible. That’s what they’re for. We have people take them home all the time. In fact, UPS just dropped off 2 more boxes last week because so many people have been taking them.

You may remember that David spoke on verses 27-40 a couple of weeks ago where Jesus showed that He truly knows the Scriptures and the Power of God better than anyone by teaching about Marriage in the Resurrection. We are going to jump over verses 41-44, where Jesus Quotes Psalm 110 to mercifully show these people once again that he, as the Messiah, the savior, the long-awaited king, is no mere mortal man but the preexistent, divine, Son of God. We’re fast forwarding because it because Pastor David spoke on that very Psalm back on January 17th, and you can see that message on our website. It’s titled “The Prophecy of the Priest King”.

Which brings us to today’s passage, Luke, Chapter 20, starting in Verse 45. Let’s set the scene:

Jesus has come to Jerusalem where he knows he will die. It’s Wednesday of that week and He’ll be dead in 2 days. In fact, all week long he’s been teaching in the temple and it says at the end of the last chapter that, “Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the Chief Priests, the Teachers of the Law, and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. Yet they couldn’t find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.” All day, Jesus has been verbally sparring with different groups – all who claim religious authority in Israel.” - remember that this chapter started by them asking Jesus “By whose authority do you do these things? The Teachers of the Law are analyzing him to find a weakness, the chief priests look down on his condemnation, the Sadducees are challenging His knowledge of scripture, and He mercifully, lovingly, tries to tell them “I am not just King David’s descendant, I am King David’s God!” The crowds are hanging on his every word, but the leaders will not listen, and so he gets to our verse – verse 45 - where it says this, it says:

“While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware of the teachers of the Law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”

I can just see it in my mind, can you see it? The stone white walls of the temple court with literally thousands of people all around, some in rags who have travel far for this Passover, some in ornate priestly garb, a bright midday sun in the sky and if you looked down from overhead you see Jesus standing in the middle on concentric circles of people all pressing in to hear him talk and he turns away from the crowd that he’s been speaking with to speak to his disciples and point over to the Teachers of the Law and says beware of these men, these ones. These will be punished most severely.

It seems pretty intense so let’s ask some questions to figure out what’s going on here.

Who were these men, these Teachers of the Law? Other translations call them the Scribes. And as experts in the letter of the law they also often practiced law, they were lawyers of sorts for the Jewish people. And As teachers of the law, they were more akin to theology professors then to preachers, more focused with technical expertise in interpreting the Old Testament law then with actually spiritually guiding the people.

But they were all talk and no walk when it came to true religion. As Lawyers they were often in charge of widow’s estates, and Jesus points out in our passage that they would often take advantage of those widows’ vulnerable position in society. And so, Jesus charges them with one of the most heinous crimes in the New Testament, one that as Jesus says, will be “punished most severely”: Hypocrisy as a religious leader. The pursual of outward piety, and inward predation. To give the appearance, the show, of speaking on behalf of God and yet taking advantage of his Sheep.

This isn’t the first time that he has called them out on this. He also absolutely hammers them and the Pharisees at a dinner party back in Luke 11 where he says “

…. “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.

47 “Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them. ….

52 “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”

Woe to you! Woe to you! Jesus is never shy about condemning the hypocrisy of religious leaders. Even at a dinner party! Can you imagine…Woe to you! And also pass the Hotdish, I love tater tots.”

But the hypocrisy of religious leaders is no joke to Jesus. It is a reminder to us that there are false teachers that claim to know God even to this day. They say I am a Christian, but what they teach is not the Word of God, what they practice is not worship of the one true God as he has revealed himself in scripture, what they produce is not the fruit of the Spirit of God, and what they fear is people and not God. They may sound good, and they may be attractive in a spiritual way. They may command respect and have a religious gravity about them. But Jesus looked at his disciples then and look at you and I today and says, “Beware.” Get away from them. They have nothing good to offer you. They are not from me, they are against me. They may claim my name but my Spirit does not live in them and as Romans 8:10 says “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.”

Jesus says it to his disciples like this in Matthew 7:15: “Watch out for false prophets [Someone that speaks on God’s behalf]. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.“ In Luke 12:1 Jesus says it like this ““Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” Let us take this very seriously.

There are two telltale signs of false religious leaders that Jesus has shown us, not just in this passage, but in this entire chapter of Luke 20. 1. They do not know the scriptures. 2. They do not believe the scripture that they do know, so they live contrary to what it says. Lets look at the first.

[Signs of a false religious leader:

They don’t know the Scriptures

They live contrary to Scripture.]

The teachers of the Law knew Scripture – that was their job… to know what it said. But we did see a few weeks ago that Jesus told the Sadducees (another group of Jews) that they were wrong because they didn’t know Scripture.

When you don’t know Scriptures, it results in poor theology - basically believing or teaching something that is not what the Bible teaches. We have many examples of this in today’s world. I’ll name a few of the major ones that you should keep on your radar.

[Examples of Poor Theology resulting from not knowing Scripture:

The Prosperity Gospel

(Add each title to the list as I get to that section.)]

The Prosperity Gospel – This teaches that if you love God enough, you will be blessed financially, materially, health wise, and you’ll be happy. If you don’t have those things, it’s because you don’t actually love God enough.

They might cite the passage in Matthew 7:11, which says “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Don’t be alarmed when they use scripture. Even the Sadducees were referring to scripture when they asked Jesus the question about marriage. Even the devil, himself, quotes scripture at Jesus when he tempts him in the wilderness in Luke 4.

But one glance at the life of Paul will show you that he loved God more than most and that he was very joyful, and rich, and alive… but only Spiritually. Physically he was often depressed, utterly impoverished, persecuted, beaten, and in prison.

Those who teach the prosperity Gospel, do not know the Scriptures. Beware of them.

Jesus Loves, but He does not Judge – Tell me, does Jesus not associate with sinners in the Bible? Yes. Would he forgive the worst sinner ever, if they genuinely repented and turned to him? Yes. Does he take you just as you are? Yes. Yes. Does he not say “Do not judge, and you will not be judged?” Why, Yes, He does, in Luke 6.

But we see right in today’s passage that he has judged the Teachers of the Law and says they will be punished most severely. If you’ve been paying attention at all to our study of the book of Luke you’d see that Jesus is constantly calling people out and clarifying what is right and wrong. He may take you as you are, but you must be like clay in his hands so that he can then reshape you. It’s all over all four Gospels, it’s all over the epistles, you even find it in Revelation. He’s constantly telling parables about separating the Goats from the Sheep, the wheat from the chaff, life governed by the flesh from life governed by the Spirit. Namely, that which stems from a deep loving reverence for God is right. Anything, anything, that does not stem from that, even if it seems outwardly ethical or noble or religious or spiritual, is sin.

Those who teach that Jesus Loves you, but he doesn’t judge your sin as sin, do not know the Scriptures. So beware of them.

You can Pay for your Sins – We see this in 2 ways.

Works righteousness – If your good deeds outweigh your bad then you’ll go to some kind of good place when you die. They might point to a verse like 2 Corinthians 5 which says “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” They interpret this passage to say that you essentially save yourself from hell by doing good deeds.

However, Jesus and the Scriptures are quite clear that it is through faith alone that we are saved and that Good works are just the evidence of that faith. And that all have sinned and fall short. The apostle Paul talks about this extensively. No one is good in God’s eyes, unless he sees you through the blood of Christ which is applied to you through faith in Christ.

Purgatory – The second most common way we see this in Christian circles is in the idea of Purgatory, which is that when Christians die, they are saved from hell, but must go through a pre-heaven cleansing when they suffer a little to be purified the rest of the way and be ready to enter God’s presence in Heaven.

However, 2 Corinthians 5:21 says “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” The righteousness of God does not need extra shining up. There is no clear biblical support for the idea that we need to suffer a bit in some purgatory-like place to pay for the last icky bits of our unholiness that Jesus forgot in the corners. Either Jesus redeemed us, or he didn’t. He’s a not a half off coupon to heaven.

Those who teach that you can pay for you sins, in this life or in some other way, do not know the Scriptures. So beware of them.

Human Progress will save Us.

Many people will claim that Human progress will save us. That as we mature as a society, we will be able to meet everyone’s need and won’t need to do bad things anymore to get what we want.

Anyone that believes that has sadly confused technological advancement with moral advancement. But as Technology improves, our sinful hearts stay the same as they always were. The only way to advance morally is to accept Christ so that the Holy Spirit will come into you and transform you, these is no other way to progress away from Sin.

Anyone that teaches that Humanity is progressing to a moral utopia, does not know the scriptures. Beware of them.

Renunciation/detachment from the physical world will give you freedom

This idea that the physical world is bad and that detaching yourself emotionally from it is the way to freeing your spirit.

But you don’t even need to look past Genesis to see that God made all of this and called it good. He provides for all of our physical needs. In the book of Acts the believers didn’t renounce or detach from the material world, no they shared their goods. And Jesus’ was Glorified in his physical, material Resurrection, not in his death! Material things are not bad. A possessive love of them is.

Anyone that teaches that renouncing the physical world or detach yourself from it does not know the scriptures. So, Beware of them.

So those are some of the most common examples of religious ideology that people teach, that do not reflect what the Bible teaches. There are of course many others as well.

Any time someone is making claims about what God says or how the world works, we need to check it against scripture. But what if those people who are making these claims, are quoting Scripture?”

The issue is what we call cherry picking verses. It’s where you pick a verse that is somewhat ambiguous and could maybe mean this or that and when you “Cherry pick” it out of its context it becomes quite difficult to know the truth. The antidote to this is to know more of Scripture better so that you can interpret those verses in the context of what the whole Bible says and not as a single verse out of context. Let Scripture be your ultimate teacher, not a person. How can you grow in your knowledge of the Scriptures? One great way is to sign up for a Renovation U course this summer like you heard John talk about just a bit ago. You can do so right now on the App or on the paper under the chair in front of you.

[Put this slide back up

Signs of a false religious leader:

They don’t know the Scriptures

They live contrary to Scripture.]

Now, not knowing the scriptures was only one of the telltale signs of false teachers that Jesus shows us in Chapter 20. In the section we’re in today, Jesus is speaking to the Teachers of the Law, and they don’t really have this first issue. They know the words of scripture backwards and forwards, so their issue is really the 2nd telltale sign of a false religious leader. They do not live according to what the scripture actually says.

Let’s go back to our verse in Luke 20:45

“While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware of the teachers of the Law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”

These men will be punished most severely because they were primarily concerned with the outward appearance of someone that Knows God, and with having the cultural status of someone of influence, but while all of the information was in their heads, none of the Truth was in their hearts.

Likewise, today, in some ways, hypocritical Christians and genuine Christians may appear the same, making long prayers, explaining theology, tithing, going to church, abstaining from destructive lifestyles like drunkenness and sexual promiscuity and gluttony. But if these actions are not stemming from a reverent, obedient love for God and joy in the fact that what He offers is so much better than those other ways, then they are sinful actions just the same. Because they would be motivated by your concern for your appearance, your flesh, not by the Spirit. And that was why the Teachers of the Law would be punished.

So, now that we’ve studied this passage, here are our two main takeaways. The first is this: If hypocritical religious leaders have been a stumbling block to you, you are already on the side of Jesus. If you hear stories and news of pastors or famous influential Christians that have had secret double lives exposed, or if you’ve been a part of a church where a leader has been obviously governed by the flesh, or if you learn about the scandalous predation of innocent children by people that claim the name of Jesus and you are knocked back, possibly questioning everything about Christianity, then realize what Jesus said about such people. He was not on their side. No! He says woe to them. Beware of those ravenous wolves. Those hypocrites are hungry, but they will be punished most severely. Our God is a God of Justice, and our king Jesus is a righteous Judge.

As a general rule it would be wise of us to not attach ourselves too tightly to any teacher, particularly famous ones. It’s difficult to hear news stories of a famous pastor or author or Christian Musician leaving the faith or being exposed as a hypocrite, particularly if your faith was positively influenced by them. In those cases, I find encouragement from a passage in Philippians 1 That Paul wrote while in prison:

15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.

Hypocrites cannot produce their own fruit, but the word of God can produce fruit even if the person that preaches it isn’t sincere. So, if your faith was influenced by someone that later turned away, realized that you were not their fruit, your faith was the fruit of the word of God. Attach your theology to scripture, not to an interpreter of scripture. Don’t believe something because So and so said it, believe it because it’s what the Bible says. People will let you down, The Word of God never will.

The second lesson we can learn from our study is to not be a hypocrite. Particularly if you are a leader. If you are a teacher, or a professor, or a small group leader, or a ministry leader, on staff, or a volunteer in Renovation Kids, pay special attention to the things Jesus says to leaders. If you aren’t convinced enough by the gospel to say you are transformed, then don’t be a leader. If you don’t know the scriptures or know them and don’t believe them enough to be transformed by them, then don’t be a leader. We don’t need more Christian leaders; we need more followers of Jesus Christ.

There is an important distinction that we need to make between struggling with sin as a leader and outright hypocrisy. Leaders will sin every day. The difference is confession of that sin vs. keeping up appearances. The difference is making war on that sin with the help of your fellow Christians through the power of the Holy Spirit, vs. as some would say, making peace with your sin.

As one of your pastors, and since I know the rest of the staff pretty well, I’m sure they would echo me when I say, I am not to be honored, Christ is to be honored. I am deserving of every bit of punishment that the scribes are, do not let my position trick you. Christians do not think that they are any better than anyone or deserving of any glory, but their distinguishing mark is that they are wretched and they know it and only Jesus can save them, redeem them, forgive them, and transform them. We are not joyful because we are good, we are joyful because Jesus is good and that makes us want to be close to him.

And if you are hearing this message today and you want to be close to Him too then you can. Maybe you are just hearing about this, maybe you were hurt by someone that claimed the name of Christ in the past and were not yet able to hear the gospel, or maybe you’ve been keeping up appearances but you admit to yourself that you aren’t really transformed, you just want to appear that way to other people. But if you want to be transformed you can be.

So, Christians, what I want us all to do is to close our eyes and pray for the person next to you. That if it be God’s will, that they would hear Him call them today and that they would trust in Him more than other teacher. And if that’s you, if you know that God is calling you to be a genuine follower of Jesus starting today then what I want you to do is to just raise your hand as a way to say yes to that.

If you know that you are a sinner, and the Jesus died for your sins, and you want to accept that free gift and be his follower, then there is no more time to waste. I beg you to raise your hand and join the rest of us sinners in this room that rely on Jesus, it is so worth it.

[If someone raises their hand]

For those of you that rose your hand, we want to pray with you.

Repeat this out loud after me…whether you’re a brand-new believer or

have been one for quite some time. Because this is what we all believe.

Repeat after me

1. Dear God

a. I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.

b. But God I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place

c. And God, I thank you, for forgiving my sins.

d. And now I commit, to following you, with my life.

Now while everyone is still praying and thanking God for this amazing miracle, for those of you that rose your hand, you’ve just made the most important decision of your life, so we want to give you some more information about what comes next. So, in a second here I’m going to pray and we’re going to move into a final song, and I want you to grab the arm of whoever brought you today and head out into the lobby where it’s a bit quieter and Our follow up team and I will get you some more information. You won’t walk out alone, there will be others that walk out with you, and our follow up team as well.

Alright, I’m going to pray so you can head on out.

Copyright: Josh Pollard
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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