"CBS Radio Mystery Theater" once presented the story of a prosperous and respected college professor. He was married and the father of two children about to enter college, and he lived in an upscale, wooded, suburban neighborhood. To others, he seemed to "have it all." Inside, however, he felt cheated, conspired against, and held back by superiors who did not realize his value to the university. He especially believed he was underpaid for his many contributions to the university's reputation.
In emotional turmoil one day, he decided to leave the office early, go home, and think things through. Upon arriving home and discovering that his wife had gone shopping, he left his car in the garage and started to stroll through the neighborhood to a nearby wood. Before he left the house, though, he took the garbage to the curb because his wife had failed to take it out and the refuse truck was in the neighborhood.
Unknown to him, in another part of town at the same time, a bank had been robbed. The thieves made their escape with the loot, but the police were in hot pursuit. They were so close that the thieves decided they should get rid of the stolen goods. Pulling into the professor's neighborhood, the thieves deposited the money bag in his neighbor's garbage container. From his hidden position in the woods, the professor watched the thieves speed away. But before long, his curiosity drove him to inspect the contents of the mysterious bag. He casually retrieved the bag and took it inside.
When he opened it, he discovered $80,000 in cash! The perfect crime! he thought. Now I have the money I deserve! And nobody is hurt—the bank's money is insured, isn't it? The thieves dumped the money into the neighbor's garbage, so if they get caught and confess, the focus will be on the neighbors, not me. If the police question me, I can just conveniently remember it was garbage collection day.
The author of the radio drama understood these principles. Before the story concluded, the professor's wife had been murdered and his best friend wounded. His own mind snapped from the stress of the ordeal. His children, burdened with a name stained by the crime, had to go on with their lives without their parents and without a college education.
What Jesus said and the radio program dramatized is that the effects of our sins will eventually show. This process contains the power to reach out and multiply its potential for damage by involving others who may be innocent of the sin that began it.
We do not sin in a vacuum; no man is an island for good or bad. God wants to cover sin, but if no other way will produce repentance, He will bring it out into the full light for all to see. We are living organisms, interacting with and having an impact upon other living organisms. Why are we so indifferent to the effects of our behavior? Should not God's Spirit lead us to strive to produce positive fruits? Could we be grieving His Spirit by resisting its prodding?
John W. Ritenbaugh
Little Things Count!
We need to understand that it is God's purpose, because He is love, to do everything in His power to cover sin. He does not want people to be exposed. He will do whatever He can to keep us from being embarrassed, but if we refuse to repent, then He will follow through with this principle. Because He loves us so much, He will embarrass us to tears to get us to repent.
He will hold us up to shame and scorn, as He did to His beloved David, who would not repent after committing adultery with Bathsheba. Eventually, God had to send a prophet to bring him to repentance, warning David that, athough what he did was done in secret, but what will happen as a result will be done in public.
What we do means a lot—because there is a God who loves us! He does not want to see us as victims of our own sins. He also does not want to see innocent people victimized even by things that we do privately, in secret. There is no such thing as "the perfect crime." The effect of what we do is going to show—unless a variable occurs to forestall it, we repent, and God is willing to cover it.
However, all the while, that sin is like an active, living organism which affects other organisms (usually, other human beings). We need to ask ourselves: "Why are we so insensitive and so indifferent to the things we do?" It is, of course, our self-centeredness.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Every Action Has a Reaction
Hypocrite originally had a neutral sense, “someone who answers,” and hypocrisy meant “answering.” Initially, these words were used of the normal flow of question and answer in conversation or discussion. They later became connected with question-and-answer sections in plays, naturally followed by the idea of acting a part. Eventually, “hypocrite” came to describe one who is never genuine but always play-acting. The basis of hypocrisy is insincerity.
Hypocrites inhabit every walk of life, trying to impress others in an attempt to hide who they really are. In the Christian life, a hypocrite is someone who tries to appear more spiritual than he really is. Such a person knows that he is pretending and hopes he will not be found out. His Christianity is a shallow charade.
As the crowds following Him grew, Jesus decided to warn His disciples of this spiritual pitfall. They could easily surrender to human nature, giving in to the temptation either to gain popularity by pleasing the crowds or to avoid trouble by pleasing the Pharisees. Human nature drives us to want people to like and admire us, and it seems so easy to “act the part” that others want to see.
Jesus compares hypocrisy to leaven, symbolizing sin (I Corinthians 5:6-8; Galatians 5:9). Like leaven, hypocrisy begins small but grows quickly and quietly, infecting the whole person and eventually the whole society. When a person is puffed up with pride, hypocrisy flourishes and character deteriorates (I Corinthians 4:6, 18-19; 5:2). Like all sin, it must be stopped before the underlying pride has an opportunity to spread (James 1:14-15). The longer he waits to deal with it, the worse it gets. Nothing can really be hidden (Mark 4:22), which makes hypocrisy foolish and futile. So why keep pretending?
Jesus was perhaps concerned that His disciples might be tempted to compromise the truth to avoid offending the crowds or the Pharisees (see Luke 8:16-18; 11:33). Many who profess to be God's ministers do something like this to remain in their pulpits. God's truth is like light, not leaven, and it must not be hidden.
Jesus mentions “fear” five times in these verses, teaching that a basic cause of hypocrisy is the fear of men. People will do almost anything to avoid embarrassment or harm. When we are afraid of what others may say or do to us, we try to impress them to gain their approval, and our human nature will stoop to deception to accomplish its purposes. Sadly, many of the Pharisees were more concerned about reputation than character—what people thought about them than what God knew about them. The fear of men always brings a snare (Proverbs 29:25), and Jesus wants His disciples to avoid it and be stable in their faith. As Scottish novelist and poet, Sir Walter Scott, wrote, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive.”
Martin G. Collins
Beware of Hypocrisy