When Jesus spoke of being "pure in heart" (Matthew 5:8), He emphasized the inner person . . . the motive . . . the "heart." The phrase does not refer simply to doing the right things but doing the right things for the right reason. Being free from duplicity, hypocrisy, and/or sham. God desires His servants to be "real" people—authentic to the core. The portrait He paints is realistic.
In Jesus's day, many of the religious authorities that claimed to serve the people were not "pure in heart." Far from it! Hypocritical and phony, they played a role that lacked internal integrity. In Matthew 23—one of the most severe rebukes against hypocrisy in the entire Bible—we find words in strong contrast with the Beatitudes of Matthew 5. Instead of eight "Blessed are you's," there are eight "Woe to you's." Count them—Matthew 23:13, 14, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27, and 29!
Woe unto whom? Well, read verses 25–28.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (23:25–28)
Wow, Jesus said that! It is doubtful He despised anything among those who claimed to serve God more than hypocrisy—a lack of purity of heart. Did you notice what characterized the phony Pharisees?
- They were big on rules and little on godliness.
- They were big on externals and little on internals.
- They were big on public commands and little on personal obedience.
- They were big on appearance and little on reality.
On the outside, they "appeared righteous to men," but inwardly they were "full of dead men's bones . . . full of hypocrisy." Why did He hate that so much? Because it represented the antithesis of servanthood. Time after time, therefore, He announced, "Woe to you . . . !"
Back to Matthew 5:8—the "pure in heart." Jesus extols this virtue. The term pure literally means "clean." It's the idea of being uncontaminated, without corruption or alloy. Without guile . . . sincere and honest in motive.
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