Debbie W. Wilson Writer
The whole world has been on guard against COVID-19. Face masks, social distancing, and empty shelves of Vitamin C show how seriously many are taking this threat. Unfortunately, not only are we on guard, many are dogged by fear and worry.
Worrying about our livelihood seems natural in light of mass pay cuts, lost jobs, and closed businesses. And with people still sick and dying, it’s expected that we should feel concern over our health.
Yet, when Jesus addresses these areas, He turns the issues upside down. He tells us not to worry about our lives and livelihoods and to be on guard against issues most of us don’t consider threats. By reframing the things of earth in light of heaven, He shows the remedy to worry lies in an eternal value system. Let’s learn to shed our worries by applying Jesus’ words in Luke 12:1-35.
Be on Your Guard!
Many years ago, my husband and I were traveling through Germany. Listening to people speaking German caused my husband to blurt out the only German word he remembered from “Hogan’s Heroes,” an old TV program set in a German prison camp. Only, he didn’t know what it meant.
“Achtung!” he said with flourish. When people stopped to look, I asked a young German girl what it meant.
“It means, ‘Attention!’”
When Jesus says, “Be on your guard,” it’s the equivalent of saying, “Attention!” He is alerting us to danger.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Iyan Kurnia
1. Hypocrisy: More Contagious and Dangerous Than Any Virus
“Jesus turned first to his disciples and warned them, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees—their hypocrisy’” (Luke 12:1 NLT).
The Pharisees were the religious leaders of that day. They “wanted to trap him [Jesus] into saying something they could use against him” (Luke 11:53-54). These rulers had the power to throw people out of the synagogue and have them stoned. When one of them internally criticized Jesus for not ritually cleansing Himself before a meal, Jesus pointed out their hypocrisy.
His boldness in exposing these religious leaders must have shaken the disciples. What might they do to Jesus—and to them?
Jesus, sensing their concerns, addresses them. But before soothing their fears, He warns them of a greater threat than personal harm—religious hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy has to do with playing a role, pretending to be something you’re not. Relating it to yeast or leaven refers to how it spreads and infects others. A pinch of fermented dough would leaven the whole loaf.
I met a young woman who earnestly wanted to follow Christ. Her faith was set back by a hypocritical pastor. She’d left a wild lifestyle to follow Jesus and thought dating a pastor would be safe. This man turned out to be just like the unsaved men she’d known before finding Christ. The experience shook her. Thankfully, she eventually met genuine believers who lived their faith.
The Pharisees pretended to love God with their outward show of religion. But inside they had no love for God or justice (Luke 11:37-44). Their hypocrisy turned people off who were seeking an authentic relationship with God and caused others to think it was ok to use faith to justify selfishness. Jesus said, “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
Among the twelve disciples stood Judas. I wonder if Jesus looked at him when He spoke. Judas wore the mask of a devoted disciple, but behind closed doors he was a thief (John 12:6).
Judas ignored Jesus’ warning. His hypocrisy contaminated his whole heart leading him to eventually betray Jesus for a few silver coins. This infection cost him the loss of his eternal soul.
Jesus warned that all hypocrisy will be exposed. True faith in God is revealed in how we live when no one is looking. Those who live to please God honor Him whether anyone else sees or not.
Even during hard times, guarding genuine faith is more important than guarding our physical lives.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Chesiire Cat