“Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own?” (Matthew 7:3)
In one of my classes my professor told the story of a prominent preacher who taught for many years that the elder qualification of “the husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2) meant that, even if a man’s wife died, if he wanted to be an elder, he could never re-marry. This man taught this in his church and enforced it on the lives of his flock. That is until the day his own wife died. A few years after his wife’s passing he began to get lonely, and began to take an interest in a certain lady at his church. But he knew he couldn’t marry her and still be considered an elder, and so he devised a scheme. He told his congregation, “Well, just don’t call me elder anymore, call me pastor.” And so he justified himself and married, while others of his flock had followed his own teaching (remaining unmarried after the death of their wives), he wiggled out of and around it.
This man didn’t care about God’s word and how it applied to his own life, he only cared about correcting others “sin”. He doesn’t view the Bible as speaking to him because he is “righteous”, he is “above the law”. He teaches so that he might condemn others, he teaches so that eyes will be on the sin of others so that they will not see his own. And then when his own is confronted, he brushes it off and acts like nothing ever happened.
I hear this story and cry “what a sinner!”, but how often have I done the same? I speak to people about God’s word and how it should affect them, and yet I think nothing of myself or how it should affect me. I prepare a lesson for others – I think, “Oh yeah, this will be really good for them to hear!” But I fail to look at myself.
This is the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Always looking at others and thinking them sinners, and thinking that they themselves are perfectly fine and righteous.
I must beware, lest I feed others the word of God and fail to feed myself (as Richard Baxter once said). I must dive into the word of God and apply it to myself before I speak it and apply it to others.
“Father, you know my tendency towards hypocrisy, and how I so easily look at the faults of others and ignore my own. Help me to see my own sin, help me to see my own sin in the light of your holiness and then come to rely more fully on you for grace and mercy, for the righteousness that is not my own. Thank you for Jesus, for there is great hope for me because of him! My hope is in you Lord, help me to know you, and therefore act as you would act. May I be merciful to others, because of the great mercy you have shown to me.”