A Warning Against Hypocrisy
1. Read Matthew 23:1-12 twice. Write down any key ideas or phrases that catch your attention. What are the key principles you believe we ought to draw from this text? Why did you choose those principles?
2. According to Matthew 23:1-12, what was the main reason Jesus warned his disciples not to follow the leadership of the Pharisees?
3. Verses 13-39 of Matthew 23 contain the “seven woes” of Jesus, directed to the scribes and Pharisees. In the space below, write out each “woe” and then rephrase it in your own words.
What was the primary concern of Jesus in these woes? Explain your answer.
4. Using a dictionary, write down the definition of hypocrisy.
The charge of hypocrisy is often leveled against Christians in our culture today. Why do you think that is?
Do you think most people who accuse Christians of hypocrisy understand what it is? Do you think they understand what Christians believe? Explain your answers.
5. Based on the actual definition of hypocrisy, why would Jesus not want his followers to be hypocrites (or, follow hypocrites)?
6. Read verses 1-4. Why did Jesus tell the crowds and his disciples to “do and observe” whatever the scribes and Pharisees told them?
What did Jesus mean by, “Moses’ seat” (v. 2)?
What did Jesus tell the crowds and his disciples not to do (v. 3)? Why did he tell them not to do those things?
7. Some people have said Jesus came into the world and abolished the Old Testament Law. Read Mark 7:8-13 and Matthew 5:17-48. Based on these texts, what is the real target of Jesus’ criticism? Explain.
How do these texts relate to what Jesus is teaching in Matthew 23:4?
According to Jesus, what happens to people when they attempt to live according to these extra-biblical traditions (v. 4)? Why does that happen?
8. What motivated the seeming religiosity of the scribes and Pharisees (vv. 5-7)?
Was this true holiness before the Lord? Why or why not? Find at least one verse of Scripture to support your answer.
9. What was Jesus’ reason for telling his disciples not to seek to gain authority over one another as teachers or masters (vv. 8-10)?
10. How does Jesus summarize his teaching on hypocrisy in verses 11-12?
Paraphrase these two verses in your own words.
How did Jesus fulfill this teaching in his own life?
11. How would you respond to a relative or coworker who said he or she did not want to become a Christian because of all the hypocrites in the church? How is their concern valid? In what ways is their concern invalid? Explain your answers.
12. What does it mean to be under authority? In what ways are Christians under authority today? Which of these ways are legitimate and which are not? Explain.
13. What might the “appearance of piety” look like in our day? Have you ever been guilty of presenting yourself as godlier than you really are?
What were some of your motivations for doing so?
What are some reasons people try to present themselves as someone they aren’t? What are three things you can start doing today to help prevent you from putting on airs?