Jesus was highly critical of the religious leaders of His time because of their hypocrisy. One of His biggest criticisms was that they did many of their works to be seen by men. Matthew 23:5-10 “But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.” A phylactery was a small strip of parchment with portions of the Law written on it; it was fastened with a strap to either the forehead or the left arm to remind the wearer of the duty of keeping the commandments of God. The Jews understood that they were commanded to do this (Deuteronomy 6:8). To make their phylacteries broad was to make them big so that others would see how righteous they were. The Jews were also commanded to make fringes in the borders of their garments with blue thread as a reminder to keep the commands of the Lord (Numbers 15:38-39). To enlarge the borders of their garments was to make them big and obvious so that others would see how righteous they were. The religious leaders also wanted the seats of honor at feasts or synagogue assemblies so that others could see that they were the righteous ones. They liked titles of honor and to be respected as a righteous person. They did all these things to be seen by men.
The religious leaders were also very careful to pay a tenth of their garden herbs. They felt that this carefulness to tithe even the small things showed how righteous they were. Matthew 23:23-24 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” These religious leaders were careful to tithe everything so that they would be seen by men, but they neglected more important things such as being just and fair to everyone, being merciful to those who sinned, and having faith and trust in the Lord.
Jesus spoke about not doing charitable deeds to be seen by men. Matthew 6:1-4 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” Jesus also spoke about not praying to be seen by men. Matthew 6:5-6 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Jesus taught us to do our charitable deeds in secret and pray our individual prays in private. That way, our actions will be motivated by our love for those in need and our true devotion to God rather than a motivation to be seen and praised by men.
Jesus summarized his criticism of the religious leaders in Matthew 23:27-28 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” You also can appear righteous to men on the outside but inside you can be full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. You can attend all the church meetings and activities and do good deeds to be seen by men so that they think you are a good Christian, but inwardly you can be filled with selfishness, pride, lusts and hatred. God knows the true condition of your heart. Romans 2:28-29 “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” Circumcision was the cutting away of the flesh of a man and was a sign that a man was one of God’s people. As a Christian, you are to have your spiritual heart circumcised and have your heart truly dedicated to God. This is done, not for the praise of men, but because of your faith and love for God.
But some may wonder about the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Here Jesus teaches you to let others see your good works. I understand that if your motive is to receive the praise from men, then your motive is wrong. If you motive is to obey and glorify your Father in heaven, then let them see your good works.
Is your heart full of hypocrisy and lawlessness or is your heart dedicated to God? Examine yourself. 2 Corinthians 13:5 “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you are disqualified.” My encouragement to you is to seek to please God from your heart and not to do your deeds to be seen by men.