We have seen in previous studies how the religious leaders sought to catch Jesus out with questions they thought were too hard for Him to answer. In this section we find Jesus asking a question that intended to get the people thinking about who the Messiah would be. We often find the church arguing over trifling questions rather than discussing matters relevant to salvation. “Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith … If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself” (1 Timothy 1:4, 6:3-5).
“And Jesus answered and said, while he taught in the temple, How say the scribes that Christ is the Son of David? For David himself said by the Holy Ghost, The LORD said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool. David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly” (Mark 12:35-37).
In quoting from Psalm 110 the Lord exposes the ignorance of the religious leaders about the true nature and person of the Messiah, who were unable to interpret the Scriptures correctly. Despite the fact that Jesus taught and did the things that they knew the Messiah would do, they were unwilling to admit that He was standing before them. If they were to admit that Jesus was the Messiah, then they had no choice but to accept that He was God incarnate – God in the flesh. The Messiah had to be David’s son and God’s Son at the same time, therefore He had to be both Man and God.
In John 5:39 Jesus says, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” The Old Testament Scriptures, with its types, figures and prophecies, were intended to teach men about Christ. This is especially true of the Psalms, for throughout the book we read of His coming, suffering, death, and resurrection. There are those who dismiss the relevance of the Old Testament, but in doing so they fail to see the wonders of God’s plan and purpose in sending His Son into the world. With regards to both testaments; the New is in the Old contained, and the Old is in the New explained. We cannot neglect either without damage to our souls.
“And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: Which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation” (Mark 12:38-40).
The scribes loved the outward show of religion with its robes, ceremonies and praise of men. They were able to spout long prayers to impress others. They did not love God; instead they loved the money religion brought them. They may have been honoured as godly men by others, but everything they did was an abomination to God. The scribes (teachers of the Law) were to depend on the offering of the people according to the Old Testament. They misused their position to cheat people out of their money.
False profession and hypocrisy is denounced throughout the Bible as something that God detests and must judge. Hypocrites claim to be followers of Christ but in fact serve the world and themselves. The believer is meant to wear the robes of righteousness rather than the cloak of deceit. We may deceive others but it is impossible to deceive the all-seeing God. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:12-13). The joy of the hypocrite is but for a moment, but the Day of Judgement will soon be here. The hypocrite might bring disrepute to Christianity, but there is another side to the coin. It is our duty to live sincerely by the word of God, and prove to the world that the true followers of Christ are committed to Him in both faith and practice.
“And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living” (Mark 12:41-44).
Mark contrasts the hypocrisy of the religious leaders with the faithfulness of a poor widow. They would have robbed her of her two mites given the chance. She gave beyond what was her religious duty. The wealthy gave because they could afford to, the widow gave even though she could not. The rich gave out of duty, while the widow gave out of a pure heart dedicated to the service of God. The rich know nothing of sacrifice.
It is not the huge contributions of businessmen that has built the church and provided for missionaries throughout the centuries, instead it has been the continuous small amounts given by those who were moved by the Holy Spirit to do so. The false church loves its benefactors, but the true church loves its sacrificing members. Very few are truly “rich towards God” today (Luke 12:21). The vast majority spend much on themselves and contribute little to the work of Christ. God does not so much judge us on how much we give but in what spirit we offer our tithes. “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Let us support the work of God while we are able because there will be no opportunity to do so when we are dead. Just as the Lord saw what each person put into the collection box in the Temple, so He sees what we do too.
Misunderstanding Scripture and hypocrisy is not good for the soul. The Lord Jesus condemned both, and still does. The only way for us not to play the hypocrite is to whole-heartedly apply the teachings of Scripture to our lives.