The Height of Hypocrisy


The Pharisees were middle class laymen, active in the synagogues, and scattered throughout Palestine. Their basic concern was adherence to the oral law that was accepted as equal or superior in authority to the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament). The more they valued the traditions of men passed down in the oral law, the more they subsequently debased God’s Word. What started out as well-intentioned clarification veered strikingly off course over the years.

  • How have you seen traditions turn to doctrine within certain groups of Christians?


14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

16  “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. 17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.

18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. What was the tenor of the exchange between Jesus and the Pharisees? Why did Jesus rebuke them?
  2. How did the Pharisees try to force their way into the kingdom of God? In what false things do people place their hopes today in order to gain favor with men and salvation from God?
  3. Why did Jesus uphold the permanence of the Law to the Pharisees, who were the ultimate lovers of the Law, as a rebuke (vs. 17)?
  4. Are there improper ways that you, like the Pharisees, justify your thoughts or actions before others? Although God already knows your heart, where do you need to surrender your claims to righteousness and reconcile with him?


The Pharisees were lovers of money instead of God; they were planning to force their way into the kingdom with their riches, believing material blessing was a sign of God’s favor. They were lovers of the Law until it didn’t suit their purposes, i.e. they believed they could avoid adultery by divorcing their wife in order to marry another woman. They were hypocrites—perverting the Law by adjusting its moral demands to be more palatable. But God knew their hearts. Jesus rebuked this hypocrisy and self-justification by upholding the permanence of the Law and its significance.

  • Ask God to search your heart to see if you are off course; confess your sin before him.
  • Repent, thanking him for his faithfulness to forgive.