Burden of Proof

Read This Week: Matthew 23

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. – Matthew 23:1-4 & 11-12 NIV

Hypocrisy is often used as one of the biggest reverse apologetics for the movement of Christianity. For centuries, skeptics and those who reject the Christian faith point to hypocrisies in the lives and actions of those who call themselves followers of Jesus as evidence that the message is not authentic. The unbelieving culture sees the incongruencies between the teachings of Scripture and its devout followers as proof that salvation in Christ is nothing more than a construct of people.

These arguments and assertions lack two logical realities. One, the hypocrisies of fallible, finite, and imperfect human beings does not and cannot logically negate the existence and truth of an eternal and immutable God. Secondly, just because someone believes something does not mean they embody it. Paul David Tripp once wrote that “just because you believe a thing does not mean you are that thing.” Therefore, devotion to God or lack thereof does not disprove that He exists or that the Church is not the Body of Christ sent to preach good news to the world. Hypocrisy is about flaws in the heart of man and not about the character of God.   

Jesus addresses hypocrisy (specifically religious hypocrisy) in Matthew 23. Jesus says the Scribes and Pharisees are hypocrites seven times. The word in Greek described actors who placed a mask over their faces as they played their part. It means someone who pretends to be something they are not, pretending to be someone better than they are. Someone who appears to be virtuous and of a good reputation but in private is corrupt and immoral. Jesus said this is what the Pharisees and others like them are. He said their hypocrisy creates and puts a burden on other people. The end of verses 3 through 4 says:

But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

The scribes and Pharisees were hypocrites and poor examples because they expected more of others than they did of themselves. They set heavy burdens on others yet did not even live up to those standards. They also created a burden and barrier for people to see and worship God.

But Jesus does not say that their actions and hypocrisies negate the existence and preeminence of God, nor will it prevent the kingdom from advancing. Instead, he rebukes, warns, and speaks to their hearts so they will turn from their sin and behavior. He wants them to stop causing others to be burdened by something that should give them joy, peace, hope, and expansion. Jesus desires the same thing from us.

The same directive and correction given to the Scribes and Pharisees are there for the follower of Jesus today. Our failures, shortcomings, and inabilities to live up to a Christ-like standard are not a reason for disobedience from other Christians or denial from the world. The truth does not derive from the righteous life of the Christian but from the authority of God himself.

The proof of integrity and right living among believers is simply an encouragement to follow Jesus and obey God without the extra burden of duplicity. Consistent, Scripturally-based, and Holy Spirit-fueled living of Christians dispels the notion that following Christ is a burden or unnecessary. Instead, it attracts people to the immediate and eternal benefits of a life with God.

5 Comments

  1. Heidi on October 7, 2021 at 7:55 pm

    There is a song by Tenth Avenue North called “North”. I love the part where it says:

    Oh, You want me
    Somehow You want me
    The King of Heaven wants me
    So this world has lost its grip on me

    What I see is The Pharisees were doing everything for approval and for people to see how great they were. They did not follow God with a pure heart, They were supposed to know God and help others to know Him, but fame was what they wanted more, they were shutting the door to salvation.

    Father God wants to have a relationship with everyone, when you realize that, and how much He loves you, you just know in your heart, and know that Jesus is all about family then it gets easier to get what you need from Him, we can love people for God and not let fame get a grip on us, and not get in a place of being a people pleasers but desire to put God first.

    Be a God pleaser and want what His will is, ask Him to help us to have a heart like His, then we don’t get in a place of looking for attention in the wrong way and lead people in the right direction, and be excited we get to help God by being a servant of the Lord, it’s good to be a helper for Father God, Jesus and be lead by the Holy Spirit.

    Father, I hope more people would just jump in and want to be like Jesus more every day. To desire to be a servant and lead people to You.

    • Jason on October 14, 2021 at 3:58 pm

      I love this post, Heidi. It was inspiring and convicting all at the same time. Thank you for also sharing those lyrics. They are impactful and use such great imagery to describe God’s desire for us. This section stood out to me:

      Be a God pleaser and want what His will is, ask Him to help us to have a heart like His, then we don’t get in a place of looking for attention in the wrong way and lead people in the right direction, and be excited we get to help God by being a servant of the Lord.

      As someone who has struggled with people-pleasing in my life, it is so good to be reminded that we should live for an audience of One and to be obedient to and please Him. It sets our purpose, focus, and expectations in this life and on our mission as His servants.

  2. Alma Schmidt on October 9, 2021 at 9:21 pm

    This week, God gave me a song from Matthew 23 called “Being Humble”:

    Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah
    Let’s humble ourselves in the presence of the Lord
    Humble ourselves in the presence of the Lord.

    Being a great servant, having faith in our Lord
    Trusting and believing
    We are doing great things through faith as we stand with our Lord.

    Glory, glory, glory, we honor and adore you
    We are blessed with your love and we are humbled by you

    Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah
    Being humble with our Lord. Amen.

    It’s always a blessing to be humble especially with our Lord. We honor and adore you, our Father God.

    • Jason on October 14, 2021 at 3:49 pm

      This is so wonderful, Alma. This part sounds like a worship anthem for all of God’s children:

      Glory, glory, glory, we honor and adore you
      We are blessed with your love and we are humbled by you

      Thank you for blessing us with these beautiful words to God and for pointing us back to the purpose of the Christian life and that is to worship, honor, and praise the Lord.

      • Alma on October 15, 2021 at 6:44 pm

        Thank you Jason, your such an encourager. It’s such an honor to do ministry with you and all the people that are out there reading the good news.Gpd is an awesome Father.

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