Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 11:37-44 – Marks of Christian Sincerity

Grace For The Journey

This morning we are going to be looking at Luke chapter 11, verses 37-44.  The passage we are looking at this morning.  It is a familiar passage, but it is not one that most preachers want to pull randomly out of Scripture and teach because it is sometimes difficult to teach on hypocrisy.  This subject is difficult to preach on because it is hard to knowingly step on toes, especially when those toes are your own.

This morning we are going to see Jesus hold a mirror up before the Pharisees and before us.  We will listen in as He shows us what it looks like to be a sincere follower of the One True God.  We will examine what it looks like to have the marks of sincere Christianity.

What we basically see Jesus saying to the Pharisees here is, “It is what is on the inside that counts.”   We have all heard this saying before and by-in-large it is always true.   Take for example Susan Boyle.  I am sure most people in the western world knows who Susan Boyle is.  She is the singing phenomenon out of Great Britain.  Her amazing talent was discovered on the reality show, “Britain’s Got Talent.”   Because you see Susan Boyle does not look like a superstar.  She has been described as a frumpy, middle-aged, not exactly attractive, unemployed woman from the middle of nowhere.   As she is about to perform in front of two very cynical British men and an audience of people rolling their eyes expecting very little.  But when the music begins to play and the first words come out of her throat the judges and crowd are stunned into silence and after just a few moments one of the judges and the crowd break into a standing ovation.  The host of the show is standing back-stage and he looks into the camera and says, “you weren’t expecting that were you” and after she finishes her song the judges tell her she is the biggest surprise they have ever had on the show.  One judge is even apologetic for judging her too soon.  Susan Boyle clearly had something on the inside that counts.

It is the same way in our Christian lives.  It is the same way with our hearts.  We can look one way on the outside and be completely and totally different on the inside.  We can look like a good Christian on the outside, we can go through all of the motions that are expected of a Christian, we can put on a good show and sometimes these things truly reflect what is in our hearts.  But all too often what is on the outside does not at all match up with what is on the inside and according to what Jesus tells us in the Scripture today is that it is what is on the inside that counts.

Let’s walk through these verses and identify some marks of sincere Christianity.  We will look at these verses under the main heading of, “Questions to ask in determining what is in my heart.”  We will start by asking ourselves some questions to determine if we have in our hearts wrong motivations for Christian living . . .

The first question we need to ask ourselves is . . .

1. Do I Focus On Another?

Look at verses 37-38, “And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat. When the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that He had not first washed before dinner.”  Did you catch that?  Did you see what it was that the Pharisee was looking at?  He was looking at the actions of another.  He was watching someone else with the intent to judge that person, with the intent to compare that person with himself.

The Pharisees were committed to living by the letter of the law and took great pride in doing so.  They also seemed to take great pride in catching others who were not as fastidious about the law.  I do not mean to say that Jesus did not take the law seriously because He did.  Listen to what he says in Matthew 5:17-18, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.  For verily, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”  Jesus did keep the law and He kept it perfectly.  What He did not do was give credence to the extra laws the Pharisees had tacked on, the meaningless laws that were a burden upon the people, the laws that would allow them to exercise an air of superiority over the rest of the people.  That is what this is an example of.  The Pharisee is not sitting there being disgusted because Jesus’ hands are filthy and He is touching His food with them.  The washing that Jesus did not do was a useless ceremonial washing.  It was the pouring of just a little water over the hands to symbolize the washing away of anything unclean that might have inadvertently been touched.

It was kind of like getting rid of cooties in elementary school.  It is like if I were in the third grade and thought girls were gross and one of them touched me.  Then I would have her cooties, so I would in turn go and touch some other unsuspecting boy so that I would be clean but now he has cooties.    know this is a gross oversimplification, but in essence this is what was going on with this ceremonial washing and Jesus was not concerned with this silly game.  You see, this Pharisee was watching Jesus, like I suspect he had watched others in the past, to see if he could catch him doing something that he could point at and say gotcha about.  He was watching to see if Jesus would do something that would allow him to comparatively feel superior.

Have you ever found yourself doing this?  I have.  More than I would like to admit.  There is one instance when I was guilty of this in high school that still weighs on me today.  When I was a junior a new family moved to town that had a son my age.  They visited our church and I made it a point to befriend him.  I introduced him to my friends, made sure to try and keep him involved in church as his family was not one that had been in the habit of regular attendance.  I in short, I made him my project.  Everything was going well.  But one weekend his parents left him home alone and he decided to throw a party.  He obviously knew better than to invite me or any of my other friends to this party, surely knowing my heart better than I myself did and knowing the judgment that would come.

But the following Monday he came to me and told me about the party and shared with me everything that went on.  Looking back, I think he was probably looking for someone to would be understanding, someone that would be there for him, someone that would show him the love of Christ.  But instead, he found someone who judged him, someone who compared himself to him and felt he was too good to be associated with someone who had done the things he had confessed to doing.  He found someone like this Pharisee.

Folks, we cannot compare ourselves to anyone else.  No matter how much better we may think we are than someone else.  No matter how much more Christian we may think we look.  God does not care.  He does not and will not judge us based on our performance compared to that of our neighbor. 

The only standard we will be judged by

Is the perfect standard of Jesus Christ

And In that comparison every one of us will fail.

If we ask ourselves “do I focus on another” and we find the answer is yes, we must repent and begin to focus on ourselves and the health of our own relationship with Jesus Christ.

Secondly, if we are going to determine what is in our heart we must ask ourselves . . .

2. Do I Focus On Appearances?

Look at what Jesus has to say to this Pharisee about appearances in verses 39-40, “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness.  Foolish ones!  Did not He who made the outside make the inside also?’”  When this Pharisee looks at Jesus and begins to judge Him based on His outward actions or on the appearance of what he is doing.  Jesus gives him a rather rebuking lesson.  He tells the Pharisee that a person can look all clean and perfect on the outside but if what is on the inside is dirty then the person is really dirty through and through.  He tells him that it is what is on the inside that counts.  He uses the example of a cup.  It is like he is talking about a travel mug I have sitting in my office.  On the outside it looks all pretty and clean but on the inside it is something completely different.  I have not washed it in months.  It might have the appearance of something you would want to drink out of but in reality it is filthy.

It is the same way with us as Christians.  We may look good on the outside.  We might “do” all the right things, we might avoid the public sins, we might go to church every week, we might even serve in the church.  But if in our hearts we do not have a real love for God, if all we are doing is going through the motions because it is what we are expected to do, or because we do not want anyone to know what really consumes our thought life, or because we do not want anyone to suspect us of our secret sin, or because it would be too embarrassing if someone knew I am really not sure if I am a Christian then we are as Jesus says “full of greed and wickedness” he says we are hypocrites.

Hypocrisy is an especially difficult sin because it consumes us in trying to live the lie.   Novelist Somerset Maugham, who was not a Christian, had an especially helpful insight on the sin of hypocrisy.  He said, “Hypocrisy is the most difficult and nerve-wracking vice that any man can pursue; it needs an unceasing vigilance and a rare detachment of spirit.  It cannot, like adultery or gluttony, be practiced at spare moments; it is a whole-time job.”  What he is saying it that it is a full-time job to try and fool everyone around us into thinking we are something that we are not.  And even then, we are foolish because even if we fool everyone around us, we can never fool God.  Jesus says we cannot fool the One who has made us both inside and out.  God always knows when we are dirty on the inside and remember, it is what is on the inside that counts.

I heard a quote the other day from a children’s book, A Wrinkle in Time.  One of the characters in the book says, “like and equal are not the same.”  I think this is a good warning for us as Christians.  Just because someone looks like a Christian, just because someone has the appearance of a Christian, it does not mean that person is equal to being a Christian because “like and equal are not the same.”  That means that if the answer is yes when we ask ourselves “do I focus on appearances” when it comes to Christianity we need to examine ourselves to be sure we are not being foolish enough to think that looking like a Christian is equal to being one.

The next question we need to ask to determine what is in our hearts is . . .

3. Do I focus On Actions?

Jesus knew this Pharisee; He knew what was in his heart better than the man himself knew.  After all Jesus is the God man, 100% man but also 100% God.  He knew this man’s motives just as He knows ours.  He knew that this man was focused on and even dependent upon his actions or his works.  Jesus just picks one of the works that he knows this Pharisee to be proud of, he picks the act of tithing.

While tithing is not the main point of this verse I feel that there is something that needs to be said about it here.  This verse is not an “ah ha” New Testament proof text for the act of tithing, and it is also not a text that one can point to and say that Jesus condemned tithing.  Jesus is not condemning the act of tithing as prescribed in the Old Testament, He is not abolishing it.  What He is doing is condemning those who do so with the wrong motivation.  He is condemning this Pharisee and any others who give in order that they might be seen and praised by others just as he does in Matthew 6.

The tithe does not get abolished in the New Testament as some might argue.  It actually gets built upon.  It seems to serve as a starting place in the New Testament.  It seems to be a place to start, it does not serve as an end.  In the New Testament we are clearly expected to go beyond the tithe.  The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 16:2 is says, “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.”

We are to give according to what we have been given. And we are to do so sacrificially according to Acts 2:44-45, “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” These folks were giving way above 10% of what they were making, they were giving as they had prospered.  And they were doing so cheerfully as is called for in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7.

Tithing 10% can actually put us in the same category as this Pharisee if we are not careful.  If we give our tithe grudgingly, or if we give it pridefully, or if our prosperity would allow us to give much more and we focus just on the 10% saying that we are obeying to the letter of the law we may be treating the tithe as a work rather than as an act of worship and thanksgiving.  And that is exactly what Jesus is saying to this Pharisee.

Jesus states in verse 42, “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”  Jesus is saying tithing is a good thing to do, it is the right thing to do, but only with the right motivation.  Only if we are living a Christian life for the glory of God and not out of obligation or for the glory of ourselves.  If we are focused on our works because of what they do for us, or out of obligation, or in order to get by with doing the bare minimum and nothing more, then we are guilty of Christian laziness and what is in our heart is not a sincere desire to love and serve the Lord.

The fourth question we must ask to determine what is in our heart is . . .

4. Do I Focus On Attention?” 

Look at verse 43, Woe to you Pharisees!  For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.”  The question really is, “Am I a self-centered, selfish Christian?”   This question again goes to the motivation of why we do what we do.  Unfortunately, we as Christians have allowed ourselves to follow the ways of the world and culture we live in.  We have become selfish and prideful.  I know this is not true of every Christian but it is a serious problem.

Take for example a unity pledge that was brought forward to be signed at our own Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting a couple of weeks ago.  Frank Page, SBC Executive Committee President, in his concern over the fracturing of our convention (which by the way is the largest evangelical group of cooperating believers in the world) over “some theological, mostly methodological” differences drafted a unity pledge to be signed by the heads of all the SBC entities, State convention executives, and several ethnic fellowship presidents.  Listen to one of the core pledges included in the document: “We pledge to maintain a relationship of mutual trust, behaving ourselves trustworthily before one another, and trusting one another as brothers and sisters indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God.”  Why is such a pledge necessary?  Is it because we are so concerned about ourselves and getting our way that we have forgotten what our mission is?  It is not just our leaders, it stretches all the way to each of us individually when we want our way or our comforts at the expense of the Gospel.

These are four questions that help us determine if the wrong things are in our hearts.  Let’s look at two questions that will help us determine if the right things are in our hearts . . .

1. Do I Focus On Loving God? . . . 2. Do I Focus On Loving Others?”

Look again at verse 42, “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass by justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.”  Jesus says to the Pharisee, “you tithe, you have good works, but your motivation is all wrong.”  Jesus says that our works should not be done for the sake of doing good works or for the sake of being viewed in a favorable light by others.

He says our works should flow out of the love that is in our hearts for God and for others.  He tells the Pharisee that he should tithe, he should have good works but not if he is going to do so without adhering to the greatest two laws there are.  Love God and love others.  All of the questions we have looked at are really summed up in the question of what is my Christian motivation?

Do I do the things I do because I truly love the one true God of Heaven who has given me salvation, who has sacrificed greatly on my behalf, and who has given me immeasurable grace that I can never repay?  Do I do the things I do because I love others?  Do I care that there are people around me and around the world that are dying without knowing the love of Jesus Christ?  Do I care that these people will spend an eternity in hell?  Do I care that there are people around the world starving to death?  Do I care that others are hurting in so many ways while I am so blessed?

When we can say yes to all of these kinds of questions and put ourselves last then we can have the true marks of Christian sincerity.

What is the danger if we do not have these marks; What is the danger of focusing on the wrong things?  Of having the wrong motivation?  Look at what Jesus says in verse 44, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like graves which are not seen, and the men who walk over them are not aware of them.”  The danger is twofold.  We run the risk of misleading ourselves and the risk of misleading others.

We mislead others as the Pharisees did by leading them to think the wrong things are important.  We teach them a works based and even hypocritical brand of Christianity that is not biblical and we may even lead them down a path that keeps them from salvation.

We may mislead ourselves.  We may convince ourselves that since we are doing all of the right things, that because we are saying all of the right words, and because we are basically good people that we are doing what God has called us to do and being what God has called us to be.  Some may have even convinced themselves that they are forgiven, born-again believers when they are not.

Please, examine your heart this morning.  Look to see what your motivations are.  Be sure of your salvation and determine today to avoid the dangers and pitfalls of hypocrisy.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

2 thoughts on “Certainty In Uncertain Times: Luke 11:37-44 – Marks of Christian Sincerity

  1. Amen! Amen!

    The Word explained in its purest form. So refreshing to read. Insightful. Great message.

    It is always the intention of the heart that will eventually determine, if what we do, no matter how good it may seem outwardly, is truly glorifying to God.

    Colossians 3:17 – And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (ESV)


  2. Hello Please I believe you know how many made it through different life journey. Hardships, torment, challenges help shaped many but with a lot of scars basically proverbs said a voice of an alder is wisdoms which bring discernment of life but we have you at forefronts as Samuel unto David that Saul Devour him not. Please have encountered God and His words this are incredible but this one encounter I won’t forget is Encountering men.

    please in every Dispensation there were patriarch who open up the well hence Jesus Christ the pattern and pathways of relevance. This is a voice crying prepare the ways of God now for tomorrow we might walk through forest of wild beast Am requesting for your prayers the devil knows the time to fight us Our Lord one day said that Please am requesting you pray for my marriage and everything necessary for God favors and men’s honor of engagement into this second last Rest in Christ since God abide in Him that He may Fellowship again with man as marriage perfected symbol of Christ and church


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.