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  • Writer's pictureMatt Beaney

#1062. Beware of hypocrisy (23/5/24)

This week, in our devotionals, we are focussing on Luke 11:33 - 12:3. Today, Jesus warns us that we must be on our guard against the infection of religious hypocrisy. 

‘Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.’ (Luke 12:1)

Lesson: The devil wants to pull us into hypocrisy so that we are robbed of the true spiritual power that can do damage to the Kingdom of darkness. 

You can listen to this devotional at:

Jesus summarises the main problem with the religious leaders of His day as hypocrisy, and it’s a danger for all of us. Hypocrisy (hypókrisis) comes from the idea of acting - it’s playing a part or simulation of virtue; it’s seeking to look like something that we are not; it’s wearing a mask for personal benefit. Religion and hypocrisy often go together. Religious hypocrisy is seeking to earn the favour of God and people by virtue signalling. It’s performing the right kinds of spiritual practices, and having the right kinds of beliefs, when, in reality, we are putting on a mask over our true selves. Through 11:39-12:3, Jesus attacks their hypocrisy in a number of areas:

  • Scrupulosity over external ceremonies whilst neglecting to allow God to cleanse their hearts (11:37-41)

  • Their, Scrupulosity in tithing, for a show,  whilst neglecting justice and love for God (11:42)

  • Wanting to be seen as important. (11:43)

  • Looking holy and so leading people into sin and hypocrisy. (11:44) 

  • The way that they burden people with unnecessary religious rules. (11:45-46) 

  • The way that they honour martyred prophets (who, conveniently, can no longer confront them!) whilst having the same heart of self-righteous defensiveness as the murderers of the prophets. (11:47-51) David Garland writes of their attitude:  ‘Had we lived in the days of the prophets, unlike our fathers we would have heeded them.’ The irony is that they live in the days of the Messiah, and their guilt far surpasses that of their fathers…’ (Garland, David)  

  • Their poor use of God’s word, which is the ‘key of knowledge’ and so they have not entered life and they keep others from having life in Christ. (11:52-54) 

This is all so well summed up with the words: 

‘Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?’ (Luke 11:39-40)

True Spirit-filled love for God can look very similar to dead religious hypocrisy. We can play the right music in the right way. We can preach the right messages. We can dress and present ourselves in the right way. However, under the facade or mask we are not truly doing it for the glory of God. We are doing it for our own success and glory or keeping traditions. We fear men rather than God! We fear losing our standing, our income, our status, our respect… more than we fear God’s discipline for our empty worship. Jesus tells us to, ‘“Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”’ 

Using the word ‘yeast’ teaches us that hypocrisy spreads. It spreads amongst the members of a church. It spreads through a movement of churches. We need teachers and prophets to keep calling us back to authenticity and truth. 


The devil wants to pull us into hypocrisy so that we are robbed of the true spiritual power that can do damage to the Kingdom of darkness. Hypocrisy puts on a show of believing in prayer, but we don’t really seek God. It puts on a show of believing in the gospel, but we are no longer believing in its power to save and transform. It puts on a show of believing in the Spirit, whilst neglecting His gifts and power. It puts on a show of believing in relational purity, whilst indulging in impurity. It must not be our priority to seek to look like a successful Christian or church, it must be our priority to be right with God. Added to this, we must be particularly careful when, as here, one feels threatened by authorities to conform. At such times, and we are in such times, we need to particularly beware of the temptation to ‘tow the line’ and be hypercritical in order to have a quiet life. Let’s be on our guard against hypocrisy! 



1. Notices

It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News. 

2. Icebreaker

How has God been speaking to you from His Word this week and how has this helped you? 

3. Worship together

Let’s begin our time together by lifting our eyes and hearts to worship our great God. Perhaps you have readings and songs that you would like to use together. Let’s be open to the gifts that the Spirit wants to give in order to encourage one another.

4. Study and pray together

Our message from our series in Luke on Sunday was based upon Jesus’ teaching from Luke 11:33-12:3. Here, again, Jesus is teaching us the importance of loving His Word - His voice - which He likens to raising up a light so that it can shine on us and then, in turn, shine from us.

Please read Luke 11:33-36, and discuss: 

  • Did God speak to you about anything specifically from Sunday’s message?

  • 11:33 - In what ways can we put the light of the gospel and God’s Word ‘on a stand’ in our own lives?

  • 11:34 - What does it mean to have ‘healthy eyes’ and what will this lead to?

  • 11:35 - What are we to ‘see to’ and how do you do this? 

  • SIV - 11:36 - What will the enlightening of the gospel and God’s Word mean for our involvement in Jesus’ mission? 

  • SIV - Do we have any stories of how we have ‘Served, Invested, and inVited’ recently?

  • SIV - Spend some time together talking and praying about who and how you are seeking to bring your community to Jesus. 

  • Let’s pray together that, this week, we will have opportunities to SIV; and pray for anything else that's come out of our time in God’s Word.

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