"Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 'The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.'” (Matthew 23:1-3 ESV)
Hypocrites often speak the truth. It can feel perplexing, but this is generally the nature of a hypocrite’s words—they speak what is true but fail to allow the truth to shape and inform their own behavior. They share the truth as though they follow it, but one glance at their life provides plenty of evidence that this is not the case.
It seems paradoxical, but there's danger in disregarding the truth spoken by a hypocrite because their behavior fails to support their words. Jesus warns His disciples regarding this temptation. He encourages them to receive the words and obey them. In other words, truth, whether coming from a friend or an enemy, is still truth and worthy of being received. And, not only received but also practiced. But knowing the truth has limitations. It’s necessary, but insufficient to produce meaningful growth apart from being applied in the playing field of life. There is great danger in believing that the ability to know and speak the truth means that we are changing. This was the scribes' and Pharisees' problem—they believed knowing the right answer was enough.
Jesus invites us to know the truth and to let the truth He gives inform everything we do. May we be attentive in our own counsel to not become like the scribes and Pharisees—distributing true statements that we've failed to practice in our lives. In those moments, when we give such counsel and conviction rises in our hearts as we taste the bitterness of our own proneness to hypocrisy, may we receive it as a gracious gift from God meant to lovingly guide us back into the humble practice of daily applying the truth that both we and our clients need.