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Woe or Wow #5

The headline read: 'Dr Love' arrested again!

(The following is excerpted from an article ANDREW COURT written for DAILYMAIL.COM 02:12 EDT, 2 January 2021.)

“A Florida man who was jailed for pretending to be a doctor while he was still a teenager has been re-arrested following his release from prison. Malachi Love-Robinson, 23, was booked into Palm Beach County Jail on Thursday on charges of grand theft and fraud.

“Love-Robinson served nearly three years behind bars for his doctor scam before he was set free in September 2019. Shortly after, he began working as a carrier at United States of Freight, a shipping company based in Del Ray Beach. Investigators now assert that Love-Robinson defrauded the company more than $10,000.

“Back in 2016, Love-Robinson made headlines after he was charged with practicing medicine without a license. He was just 18 years old at the time. Love-Robinson was illegally operating a medical practice, complete with an office, a lab coat and stethoscope.

It was later learned that Love-Malachi also stole $35,000 from an elderly patient.

“Love-Robinson initially defended his actions in several interviews and claimed that he never told anyone he was a medical doctor. However, he later pleaded guilty to grand theft and practicing medicine without a license and was jailed for three-and-a-half years.”

This young man is an extreme example of hypocrisy, isn’t he? He is a convicted con man with a history of trying to get away with being something he is not. While those guilty of hypocrisy are generally more benign (at least they are not stealing tens of thousands of dollars), their empty posturing is no less offensive to God. In this series of Lenten messages, we have attempted to use Matthew 23 as a mirror, not a telescope. Our aim has been to identify and deal with signs of hypocrisy in ourselves, not to make accusations against others. Let us be responsible to hear and heed Jesus’ warnings against hypocrisy and embrace the Bible’s call to genuine Christian living.

“Woe!” to those content with formal but fake faith. “Wow!” to those whose good actions spring from genuine faith.

1. Matthew 23:29-32 = “Woe to Those who are Merely Religious.”

Hypocrites may honor righteous people, but they do not imitate their behavior (29). The TOMBS and GRAVES may refer to monuments the religious folk erected to honor the PROPHETS and RIGHTEOUS. By honoring them in this way, the hypocrites flatter themselves that they were treating the PROPHETS and RIGHTEOUS better than their ancestors did.

They also flattered themselves by thinking they would have been more righteous than their forefathers (30). This is the way merely religious people think. It is human nature. If we are honest, we have read the Bible and at least once thought the same thing about ourselves. For example, we read about Judas and think, “Wow. I would NEVER betray Jesus like he did!” That is the kind of arrogance Peter displayed when he argued with Jesus that he would never betray Jesus. (Matthew 26:34)

Jesus exposed their hypocrisy. Their words proved their connection to those who MURDERED THE PROPHETS (31). Their own words were an unintended admission they shared the guilt of the forefathers. They thought of themselves as guiltless, but just the opposite was true - they could be just as blood thirsty as their ancestors had been.

Worst of all, they would prove their guilt by the way they worked for Jesus’ crucifixion. They were going to FILL UP THE MEASURE OF their FORE- FATHERS by crucifying Jesus (32). THE MEASURE OF SIN is the biblical idea that God’s patience is like a cup; when it is filled with human sin, it will be poured out on them in the form of God’s wrath (Genesis 15:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16).

In Matthew 5:12 He warned His disciples to expect persecution, “for so they had persecuted the prophets before you.” Again, in verses 33-36, Jesus predicted they would persecute His followers with the same misplaced zeal their ancestors persecuted the PROPHETS and RIGHTEOUS.

2. James 1:26-27 = “Blessed are Those who Truly Get It.

Characteristics of truly RELIGIOUS people. In general, people with genuine faith have consistency between their words and their deeds. James condemned those who have religious, pious-sounding words to say but no good deeds to back them up. This is the theme of James’ letter: see 2:14, 17-18.

James revealed four characteristics of religion that God honors as true.

First, the person who has relationship with Jesus as the source of his religion keeps a TIGHT REIN on his tongue. (26) This looks back to v. 19; SLOW TO SPEAK, and ahead to 3:1-12. IT is a big aspect of the theme of the letter, one of the works that proves a faith claimed.

The validity of a person’s claim to faith can be easily and reliably tested by what they say and do not say. Of course, speech alone can be easily faked, so James supplies three other indicators of true faith.

Second, as truly faithful follower looks after ORPHANS AND WIDOWS IN THEIR DISTRESS. (27) There are many biblical examples of these two types of needy persons mentioned. The idea is not just ORPHANS and WIDOWS, but all persons who have needs and are at the bottom rung of society. DISTRESS refers to both their neediness but also to the typical experience of being exploited or mistreated by evil persons.

Third, a person with genuine faith keeps themselves from BEING POLLUTED BY THE WORLD. (27) This is not a legalistic statement; it is a moral statement. The Jewish hypocrites were legally pure but were immoral. It is possible to claim a spiritual life and yet be utterly worldly.

The WORLD represents the people and things of this life that are set against God, encouraging sin, seducing believers into selling out their spiritual rewards in exchange for temporary, immediate rewards. Jesus taught one cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). The believer is required to make a fundamental choice of which is most important to him: his faith or any worldly thing. Hypocrites are people who pretend to have chosen God but by their priorities reveal that they are still choosing the world. Given these facts, a wise person will maintain an emotional distance between their heart and the world. They will not love the things of the world and will operate under the conviction that they are first a child of God and a citizen of His heavenly kingdom. Everything else is a distant second.

Fourth, true faith is more a conduct of religion accepted by GOD OUR FATHER as PURE AND FAULTLESS. (27) A God-honored faith is going to be the faith that is found in His word. It is going to be a revealed and received faith, not a faith the person has made up to suit themselves. Genuine faith is PURE and FAULTLESS by God’s standards, not our own. This also means we consistently intend to act in ways that please God, whether we please ourselves.

In verse 26 James also offered two characteristics of merely religious people. The first is self-deception. The worst kind of deception is self-deception as it is so hard to correct. The second is WORTHLESS RELIGION. It is WORTHLESS because it does nothing to meet human needs, nothing to improve the spiritual maturity of either the speaker or the listener. The word for RELIGION here is never used in a good light; it references idolatry, Jewish worship, and false teaching.

“Woe!” to those content with formal but fake faith. “Wow!” to those whose good actions spring from genuine faith.

The Bible challenges us to be IN the world, but not OF the world (2 Corinthians 10:2-4). This means we cannot just ignore the world, separate ourselves physically and emotionally from it, nor can we love the things of this world or our own life so much that God takes second place.

True faith requires us to engage with the world as it is, all the while exerting what influence we must make it a better place. This is not just a job for the powerful and influential; it is every believer’s duty to represent God in the world.

On difficulty is there have been several who have claimed to represent God but who are, in reality, far from Him. These people have damaged God’s reputation in the world and made our job more difficult.

We do not really need to explain HOW one lives as a godly person in an ungodly world, because James made that abundantly clear. As we have already seen, true believers - those who are being saved - do not just talk, they also do things consistent with God’s will. They live with God’s approval because each day they work with the Holy Spirit to improve their own walk with Christ and encourage others to walk closer to Him as well.


Interpretation, Matthew, Douglas R.A. Hare

Word Biblical Commentary, James, Ralph P. Martin

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