February 16, 2011 • By Ed Wrather
And the chief priests and the scribes that very hour sought to lay hands on Him, but they feared the people - for they knew He had spoken this parable against them. So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor. Then they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth: Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” – Luke 20:19-22 NKJV.
There is a new book soon to be published about Bernard Madoff written by Diana Henriques. The name of the book is “The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust.” The entire scheme of Bernie Madoff was built on lies, on pretense. According to the new book, Madoff claims that the banks and hedge funds knew the truth, and they pretended to believe the lies too. According to Madoff, the attitude of the banks and hedge funds was sort of, “If you're doing something wrong, we don't want to know.” Of course, we have to remember that the title of the book is, “The Wizard of Lies.” (Fox News, February 16, 2011)
The chief priests and the scribes wanted to trap Jesus and they sent out spies who pretended to be “righteous.” The spies pretended to be something that they were not. Have you ever done that? Pretended to be something that you are not? This is perhaps the most pervasive sin of Christians today. The sin of hypocrisy. Pretending to be “righteous” about everything we do, and pretending to be perfect when we know that we are far from perfection.
Not only do we try to deceive others about our “righteousness” – we also try to fool God. We think that if we can only act like we are perfect, seem like we are perfect; then this will be enough to please God. Do you think that the spies sent by the chief priests and scribes were able to fool Jesus? Here is what happened: “But He perceived their craftiness, and said to them, ‘Why do you test Me? Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?’ They answered and said, ‘Caesar's.’ And He said to them, ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.’ But they could not catch Him in His words in the presence of the people. And they marveled at His answer and kept silent (Luke 20:23-26).”
Bernie Madoff was a hypocrite, pretending to offer a real investment opportunity when all he really had to offer was lies. The spies of the chief priests and scribes were pretenders, hypocrites, pretending to be “righteous” when they were not. When we pretend that we are without sin we are hypocrites, and we make it appear that God is a liar. In 1 John 1:8-10 we are told this: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”
What are Christians? We are sinners saved by grace. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7).” Instead of spending all of our efforts and energy pretending to be something that we on our own can never be, as in “righteous - Ephesians 2:8-9” – instead, let us commit our lives to becoming more and more “conformed” to the “image” of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).