1. Introduction:
    1. Christians classify and grade sin.
      1. Some sins are serious and damning.
      2. Other sins are counted respectable.
    2. God hates sin (Proverbs 6:16–19).
      1. New Testament passages also point up this truth (Hebrews 1:9; Revelation 2:15).
      2. Paul's language against a sinner is strong (Acts 13:10).
    3. Does God hate sin or the sinner?
      1. At times it is difficult to separate between the two.
      2. One becomes involved in sin and sold into bondage of it that it would appear that God hates the sinner (Psalm 5:5).
      3. We know that God loved the world (John 3:16) and that He loved the sinner while he was an enemy to God (Romans 5:8–9).
  2. Discussion:
    1. Jesus treatment of the subject.
      1. It was not necessary for Jesus to accuse a person of some very obvious sin of the flesh. Everyone knew that already.
      2. He dealt more severely with the sins of the heart.
      3. These sins seemed to be more prevalent among the religious leaders of His day.
    2. Is there an application of this lesson today?
      1. Sins of the attitude are more cunning and deceptive than the obvious lusts of the flesh.
      2. People who have rid themselves of the outward sins of the flesh often feel a self–righteousness which is more insidious and devastating.
    3. What are some of these sins?
      1. Self–righteousness.
        1. Men often speak of their own goodness and morality.
        2. Men boast of their humility and their generosity.
        3. But truly good men do not know they are good or boast about it.
        4. Men who are humble in the sight of God do not go around telling people of their humility.
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        6. While adultery and murder are sinful and will damn the soul, there are other sins lurking out there which are less perceivable, but just as damning.
        7. Self–righteousness and self–esteem are frequently discussed throughout the pages of inspiration. A vivid and powerful story is told by Jesus in Luke 7:36–48.
        8. Another story that emphasizes Jesus' distaste for self–righteousness is found in Luke 18:9–14.
      2. The Jews felt they were a notch above others.
        1. Some, in Paul's day, boasted of this (Romans 2:23; 3:17–22).
        2. The Gentiles enjoyed the rebuke Paul gave them (Romans 11:20–21).
        3. Jesus hated religious piousness and egotism (Matthew 23).
        4. John makes reference to this spirit and attitude and condemns it severely (Revelation 3:17).
      3. Symptomatic religion:
        1. Religious leaders of his day had many of the symptoms of genuine religion, but it was empty and meaningless (Matthew 23:13).
        2. Jesus condemned them in strong and vitriolic language (Matthew 23:8–11).
        3. It is doubtful that Jesus hated any sin more than hypocrisy. He called them hypocrites many times in the same context.
        4. “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Mark 7:6–9).
  3. Conclusion:
    1. Their religion was external.
      1. They sat in Moses' seat and commanded people to act, but they themselves did not bring their lives into correspondence with their preaching.
      2. They pretended to be interested in the poor, but it was all external show.
      3. They pretended to fast and even slashed and disfigured themselves to appear unto men to fast, but it was not genuine (Matthew 6:16–18).
    2. The danger still exists.
      1. We identify certain acts of worship or works of service with righteousness.
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      3. It may be empty and meaningless.
        1. If baptism, which is commanded and necessary, is not done for the right purpose and with the right attitude, it is empty mockery.
        2. The Lord's Supper is meaningless if our hearts are not in the right place.
      4. We may form grandiose pictures of ourselves, exaggerate our importance, and become eloquent about our greatness.
      5. The fruits of righteousness must be produced from heats that are genuine.



There is a strong inclination on the part of Christians in our time to classify and grade sin. It is sorted out, separated and even collated, and then screened as to the seriousness and danger of it. Some sins are ranked as vicious, reprehensible, and damning. Others are tidied up and rearranged by people into a category that has been groomed into respectability.

For one reason or another, we have a tendency to sort sin as to type or species and then tabulate it as terrible, shocking, and scandalous on the one hand and upgrade some so as to make them unobjectionable on the other hand.

God Hates Sin

As your read the Bible on this subject, you are impressed with the number of times it is said that God hates sin.

“These six things the Lord hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
A proud look, a lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren”
(Proverbs 6:9–19).

What seems to be stressed most in this passage is lying. “I hate and abhor lying” (Psalm 119:163).

New Testament Passages

The writer of Hebrews said: “You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness” (Hebrews 1:9). He quoted this passage from Psalms 45:7. In Psalm 119:104, David echoed the sentiment of the Lord, “Therefore I hate every false way.”

The apostle John in the Revelation said: “Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate” (Revelation 2:15). Reading through the New Testament both Jesus and the apostles and other inspired


writers show strong disagreement, even repugnance, to false teaching of religious leaders. There is a note of verbal hostility in the language of Paul when he denounces Elymas: “But Elymas the sorcerer ... ‘O full of all subtlety and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord’ ” (Acts 13:8-10)?

Hates the Sinner?

It has been said, “God hates sin, but loves the sinner.” This, and other parallel passages, show this to be true. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). But there are times when man so inclines himself toward sin and persistently involves himself in it that it is difficult to separate the sin from the sinner.

In some passages it would appear on this account that God hates the sinner. “You hate all workers of iniquity” (Psalm 5:5). David seems to be speaking from God's point of view and on His behalf when he said, “I have hated those who regard useless idols” (Psalm 31:6).

Jesus' Treatment of the Subject

Any infraction of God's law is wrong and will condemn man unless it is forgiven. All sin is bad. Paul talks about sin, that it “might become exceedingly sinful” (Romans 7:13). But sins which are not readily detectable by man or which are quickly and quietly excused because they do not seem to be threatening or injurious, Jesus discussed at length and pointed out how insidious and destructive they are.

Jesus never told an adulterer, “You are an adulterer.” He never said to a drunkard, “You are a drunkard.” These sins of the flesh were obvious; clearly visible to both the sinner and those around who were listening to His teachings. But He discussed at considerable length and with great emphasis sins that were subtle and deceitful, sins of which people are not generally aware. One will rid himself of the sins of the flesh only to develop sins of the heart. And, strange as it may seem, these lessons were spoken to religious people, even to those who were leaders in the movements of that day.


Is There an Application Today?

People in the church develop blind spots. Their spiritual vision is often blurred, not because the sins are imperceptible or unseeable, but because Satan, calculating and designing as he is, uses every scheme to deceive and mislead men. But some of it is self–imposed. Sins that do not involve the lusts of the flesh are not as apparent to us as lying, stealing, murder, adultery, and dishonesty. Sins of the attitude are often more cunning and devious in their nature than those mentioned above. More than that, we are inclined to justify the actions or inactions that result from these attitudes. The man who has rid his life of these outward sins feels a self–righteousness that may be more insidious and devastating. To relinquish our hold on one should not blind us to the possibility of a shrewd undermining of our character by the other.

This is not to say that we should not discard, once for all, these sins of the flesh; but it does say in clarion tones that there are other sins lurking out there less perceivable, but just as scheming, which will twist and damn the souls of God's people.

Self–righteousness is One of These Sins

We have already made reference to one of these sins: self–righteousness.

There are a number of important truths in this vein that I have learned from reading the Bible and observing the lives of people around me. A man who thinks he is good and talks about it is usually a hypocrite. One who feels compelled to tell you how smart he is may generally be branded as a fool. When someone boasts of his bravery, you may rather accurately conclude that he is a coward. If he advertises and praises his blue blood and aristocracy, you may safely conclude that his is a knave. If he speaks of his humility and modesty, you may be sure that he is proud and arrogant.

The man who is truly good does not talk about his goodness. He doesn't seem to know that he is good. One who is really humble never speaks of his humility. And the person who is certainly wise never mentions his wisdom. The wise man said, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 12:15). The man who speaks of his goodness says, “I am pure, without


transgression; I am innocent, and there is no iniquity in me” (Job 33:9). “Most men will proclaim each his own goodness” (Proverbs 20:6).

Self–righteousness and self–esteem are discussed frequently throughout the pages of inspiration. One would think we would learn! But, if a man is a good husband and father, a good citizen and neighbor, and add to that, that he does not carouse (participate in hilarious drinking parties), steal, lie, cheat, and commit adultery, it is hard not to think that he is a pretty good person. This may be the “way that seems right to a man” (Proverbs 14:12). Solomon said, “There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, Yet is not washed from its filthiness” (Proverbs 30:12). We may say to such a man as described above, “What a fine person you are.” Whereas the truth could easily be that he is but a shell of righteousness.

This was the case of Simon the Pharisee in whose house Jesus ate. “Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee's house, and sat down to eat. And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.

“Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself saying, ‘This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.’ And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ So he said, ‘Teacher, say it.’ ‘There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered and said, ‘I suppose the one whom he forgave more.’ And He said to him, ‘You have rightly judged.’

“Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave me no kiss, but this


woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.’ Then He said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ ” (Luke 7:36-48).

This is a clear cut case of self–righteousness built on externalism. Externally, Simon was so good, but he was just a shell of righteousness.

We identify certain acts with righteousness and the examples we offer are often elders, deacons, and preachers. They are there when the doors of the church building are open; they pay their bills; they admonish the sinner; and they have never committed adultery. These actions are important, yes, even imperative, but outward actions without the heart are empty. Baptism, prayer, Bible study, and even personal work can become empty if we do not love the souls of men. A man may go to church regularly and meet his bills on time, but he works little on covetousness, malice, pride, and envy. His self–righteousness keeps him from meeting these imperatives.

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

A classic example which illustrates how Jesus felt about self–righteousness in his followers is found in a story he told about a Pharisee and a tax collector. Listen to it carefully: “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus to himself, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.” And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted’ ” (Luke 18:9–14).

We often free ourselves from sins of the flesh and turn and sadly encumber ourselves with sins of the heart. Jesus hated the sin of self–righteousness. He could lead a man who knew and acknowledged that he was a sinner to righteousness. The man


who knew that he was righteous began to think that he was better than he was. The man who knew he was bad was better than you think, but the man who knew he was good was worse than you think. Indeed, we must look childish to God in trying to reconstruct a shell, when we are empty on the inside.

Not much change has taken place in the heart and deportment of some men since that distant day. They still think more highly of themselves than they ought to think. John called this to our attention when he said, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8).

James made this critical observation of a threatening, dangerous course a Christian may pursue: “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless” (James 1:26).

The Jews were a Notch Above

Some of the Jewish Christians of Paul's day boasted as if they were deserving recipients of the law (Romans 2:23). “You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law?” They possessed such self–righteousness they felt they were exempt from the demands of it. You see, they were the children of Abraham and that put them a notch above the Gentiles! They were the spiritual aristocracy and had privileges not granted to others of God's children. In fact, Paul indicated that they felt they had a license to infract God's law.

Hear how he warns and rebukes them: “Indeed you are called a Jew, and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, and instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples” (Romans 2:17–22)? You can tell they though they were a notch above the Gentiles.


A Satisfaction in the Rebuke of Others

In his rebuke of the Jews, the Gentile Christians seemed to take some delight, but Paul corrected them in saying, “ Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either” (Romans 11:21–21). He told them, “do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in’ ” (Romans 11:18–19).

Jesus hated religious piousness and egotism. There was nothing genuine about it. Some had deceived themselves into believing that because of their spiritual heritage, they stood innocent, virtuous, and immaculate before God and their fellow men. They never seemed to question that they were generous, chaste, and upright, even magnanimous in all of their doings. How despicable this spirit of self–righteousness was to Jesus! Ignorant of God's righteousness, they had gone about to establish their own righteousness (Romans 10:3). They were like the man Paul discussed in Galatians 6:3: “For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Such a haughty spirit, high and proud, must be contemptuous in the sight of the Lord. It is present at times in churches and elders as well as individual Christians.

Listen to John quoting Jesus as given to us by the Holy Spirit: “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed and the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with salve, that you may see. ” (Revelation 3:17–18). How strange that we cannot see our own faults and discern our own abomination!

Symptomatic Religion

Jesus examined and carefully inspected the religions of His day, particularly the religion of the Pharisees. On different occasions He interrogated them about what they believed and practiced in an effort to ascertain the genuineness of their theology. As He measured their traditions and questioned their religious beliefs,


He came to the conclusion that the leaders among them were hypocrites. “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites” (Matthew 23:13)! He repeated that charge against them six or seven times in the same confrontation with them. There were several other epithets He applied to them that expressed qualities he considered to be characteristic of them—such as, generation of vipers, blind guides, fools, whitewashed sepulchers, and serpents.

I doubt that there was any sin that Jesus hated more than hypocrisy. You can detect that by the critical and judgmental language He used to describe those who were guilty of it. The word in English means, “one who pretends to be what he is not; or one who pretends to be better than he really is.” In the language of the New Testament, hypocrites is defined as, “one who acts a part upon the stage; a stage–player; actor; a moral or religious counterfeit” (Analytical Greek Lexicon).

Our Traditions are Important

The Pharisees as a group came together to see Jesus and discuss infraction of their traditions by some of His disciples. They said they saw His disciples “eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands” (Mark 7:2). Mark said that they washed their hands often, else they would not eat. He further informed us that when they came from the market place that they would go through the routine of ceremonial washing (sprinkling themselves), or they would not eat. They had a ceremony of washing (baptizing) cups and pots to keep the worshippers from becoming contaminated.

Here is what Jesus had to say about them: “ ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do’. And he said to them, ‘All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition’ ” (Mark 7:6–9).

Even today there are people who have the symptoms of true religion, but it is not real. It looks like it is, but it is what doctors, in medical terms, call psychosis. Such a person goes to


a doctor with all the symptoms of some disease and says, for example, “I can't walk; my back and legs ache and are weak. I haven't walked for years.” He may even have other symptoms, but the doctor, upon thorough examination, finds a lack of any organic cause. Actually, it means that the disease is not real. The point I am trying to make is that too often some of the spiritual qualities we should possess are imagined—they are not real and are not acceptable to God.


So it was with the religious leaders and many of their followers of Jesus day. They had the symptoms, but they were all externals. They sat in Moses' seat and told people what to do, but they did not practice what they preached. They pretended to be interested in the poor. “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” (Matthew 6:2). They were not all concerned about the poor. Jesus said they have their reward here; the plaudits of men. When they prayed, they stood on the street corners or in other public places and uttered loud and colorful prayers to be heard and seen of men.

Public prayers are not a sin, but if they are uttered for show to impress those around us, they are empty and futile. These people wanted others to believe they were very religious. Their aim was to flaunt their religion. The Pharisees made a gaudy, ostentatious, conspicuous display before others.

In fasting, they would disfigure themselves that they may appear to men to fast. They wanted people to notice. It was purely external. If externals were taken away, nothing would remain except an empty shell.

Danger Now

The danger still exists; this danger of externalism in religion. We are inclined to identify certain acts in our work and worship with righteousness. Make no mistake about it, actions are important, but outward actions without the heart are empty. Baptism, the observance of the Lord's Supper, prayer, Bible reading, and even personal work can become empty and meaningless if they are


not done for the right purpose, with the right attitude, and with hearts filled with love for God and the lost. One may be at church every time the door is opened and sing as beautifully as the best, listen to the sermons, and give of his money and, in the end, it may add up to hollow mockery because he gives no attention to his egotism and self–importance and does not work on his envy, hatred, covetousness, and malice. Truly, we must look like the mock–playing of a child to God; trying to construct a shell while empty on the inside. I don't think that God ever used the term humbug, but he has used terms like misleading, dishonest, trickery, deception, and hypocrisy.

How We Look at Ourselves

Like many of the Jews of that day, we can form some grandiose images of ourselves. We exaggerate our importance and become eloquent in speaking of our own greatness. With some pride we boast of our accomplishments and with a courtly dignity we tell how far we have come. Lofty we are. You have but to look at the record! Finally, we can congratulate ourselves for our noble stance and our royal achievement! We are big; we are distinctive and we have arrived. More than that we have authority. We are the bosses! Jesus hated affectation because it is hypocrisy.

Hypocrisy has so many brothers and sisters. It is, in fact, an extended family. Members of this family are pretence, putting on airs, false show, mere facade, feigned righteousness, artificial graces, and insincerity. It is a big family. Jesus denunciation of it was in the strongest terms He ever used.

One would expect a whoremonger or an adulteress to go to hell if they continue in the pursuit of that course in life, but hardly anyone thinks that the keepers of orthodoxy, the guardians of the sheep, the approved leaders of the people, and the ones who sit in Moses' seat with the right beliefs would share the same fate. Some sins are worse than others, we think.

We believe that adultery is more grievous than addiction to drugs. We brand extramarital activities among Christians as shocking and scandalous, and indeed they are; but we would never consider a short temper, a spirit of authoritarianism, and rude and discourteous demeanor toward other Christians to be reprehensible or even particularly objectionable. God considers these things lamentable and worthy of punishment.


Attitude toward God and his word, and toward ourselves, is enormously important in determining where we will all spend eternity. The belief of the truth is of significant consequence. You can never be free without believing and embracing it (John 8:32). But self–righteousness, false piety, and affected humility are as dangerous to one's soul and eternal destiny as taking another man's wife or sniffing cocaine! The subtle sins, the deceitful deeds, the crafty contrivances, and the manipulative maneuvers are as deadly and damning as the obvious sins of the flesh. This wickedness has grown out of an attitude of the heart and the Lord calls upon us to constantly reexamine ourselves that we may daily produce the fruits of righteousness in our lives.