“… God never punished people for being too scrupulous…” When I first heard this, I didn’t know how to respond.I didn’t give the matter a second thought until just now and this is my response: When it comes to the most meticulous and principled people people in Scripture, you really need to look no further than the Pharisees. They were the keepers of the law, both written and spoken. Jesus reserved his harshest words just for them in Matthew 23. Now it is true, they weren’t punished for being too scrupulous. But they weren’t honored for it, either. Jesus didn’t commend them for keeping the law so meticulously.
I know, they were dealing with the Old Testament, but that does not mean that it is impossible for New Testament believers to fall into the same error. In fact, the warning to ‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.’ would indicate that it is a possibility in the lives of Jesus’ believers. In fact, it happened to Peter and Paul gave an account of it in Galatians 2. So if they were not immune, then we are susceptible all the more so because we aren’t and haven’t been on guard against it.
Jesus’ exact charges against the Pharisees were:
They did not practice what they preached
They tied up a heavy burden on the people and did not help them
They did everything to be seen
They sat in places of honor and in the most important seats at banquets and synagogue
They loved to be greeted with respect in the public places
They loved to be called important titles like Rabbi
They shut the door of the kingdom God so that nobody could enter, but they didn’t enter it either.
They go to great length to win converts they like and to make the convert just like them (or worse than them)
They saw oaths as binding if it was on the gold or gift offered on the altar to the Temple, but not on the Temple nor the altar itself.
They tithed on spices and from materials, but they did not tithe on justice, mercy, or faithfulness.
They were clean outside, but their heart was full of greed and self-indulgence.
They had the appearance of righteous mean, but their heart was full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
They testified against the past, proclaiming that they would not have persecuted the Prophets, which they were doing in the present.
Hypocrisy is only hypocrisy if one does not practice what they preach. We know that the Pharisees kept the law and that they preached the law. What’s hypocritical about that? In Matthew 15, Jesus said that: “Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.”
Tradition. That which is not expressly stated in Scripture, but can be inferred from it and is often held in equal authority to the Scripture. Christianity has a tradition, not just the New Testament, but oral teachings based on the New Testament teachings handed down and interpreted over and over again from one generation to the next. Some examples where it went wrong:
The persecution of the Anabaptists (spiritual ancestors of the Hutterites, Mennonites and Amish) by the Roman Catholic and Protestant authorities resulted in thousands of deaths. They were known for the Anabaptist practice of re-baptizing infants (when they were full grown adults along with publicly professing their faith) because they did not believe in that infant baptism counted.
On an occasion when Catholics were in disagreement with some Cathar heretics and one fighter had reported that they were uncertain if their foe was made up entirely of heretics – it was reported that a commander replied: “Kill them all for the Lord knoweth them that are His.” (Misquoted 2 Timothy 2:19.) An estimated twenty thousand men, women, and children were killed in the massacre at Béziers. The Cathars believed that women were the spiritual equal of men and allowed them to serve the sacraments and conferred upon them the title of Perfect. (Among other beliefs, such as reincarnation.)
In Christianity’s recent history, the degree of hypocrisy is staggering – ministers using tithe money to build bigger houses for themselves, ministers who have no regard for marriage, televangelists who do the very things they preach against. They might not brandish the sword, but public scandal and disgrace one after the other accomplishes the same spiritual ends: closing the door of Heaven to others, keeping others out, and yet not going in themselves. No, God hasn’t punished those who are too scrupulous, but that does not mean that he won’t once the truth about them is made known.