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Bible Commentaries

Wells of Living Water Commentary

Matthew 23

Verses 23-33

A Double-Minded Man

Matthew 23:23-33


"A double minded man is unstable in all his days." We have in Matthew 23:1-39 , a striking illustration of these words.

1. We have piety as a pretense for evil practices. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer." What do you think of this? Do any of you devour widows' houses during the week, and then go to church on Sunday and make a long prayer? There are some who actually seek to cover up their wickedness, by their bold and open profession of faith in Christ. I know that.

A woman went up to work at the altar, at a meeting that I was conducting in Asheville, N. C. The pastor saw her. He knew she was leading a double life. Quietly he said: "Wait a minute, Brother Neighbour, do not call any more sinners up here until I pray." Then he began to pray: "Dear Lord, there is a hypocrite at this altar, one who is living a double life." (He prayed with one eye open, watching her, and with one eye shut.) He prayed until he saw her go down the aisle and out of the door. Then he said, "Amen, go on, Brother Neighbour, with your invitation."

How often in our assemblies, people go into the house of God, after they have been robbing widows' houses; they offer up a long prayer and seek thus to cover up their wickedness. Let us never make piety a pretense for evil practices.

2. We have the dividing of sin from sin. Let me read a little more of this, please: "Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the Temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the Temple, he is a debtor!"

"Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the Temple that sanctifieth the gold?"

"And, whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty."

"Ye fools and blind."

I have heard people say, "It is a sin to do this, but that other thing is not a sin." If you ask about certain evil things which they do, they will call them "mistakes." That is a comfortable way to get out of a difficulty, isn't it? The Bible says, "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin." It says, "All unrighteousness is sin." We have no right to put a name with less stigma and sting to our evil deeds. We should not say of sins, "This is a sin, and that is a mistake." Thereby you condemn yourself. The church should never appoint a committee of deacons with filthy or unclean habits, to examine a young woman who has danced, and tell her that she will be turned out of the church, unless she quits her dancing.

I am not holding any brief in favor of dancing, or of card-playing, you know better than that. I do not believe the children of God should do such things. However, we want to be consistent. If we discipline members for one sin, we ought to discipline them for other sins. That is what God is talking about.

3. We have paying tithes and forgetting weightier things. Notice the next verse, Matthew 23:23 : "Ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the Law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone."

It is all right to pay tithes, but you cannot bring your gifts to the Lord's treasury, and pay your tenth, with God's approval unless you show love and mercy and judgment and faith. You need these latter things pre-eminently. We want full-rounded Christians, not one-sided, half-baked Christians.


There are a great many people who are hesitating between the Lord and Baal; between going with Christ, and going with mammon. The Bible says, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon."

God wants us to give up all, and go all the way with Him not half the way.

Elijah came before the people and said, "How long halt ye between two opinions?" They wanted to serve both God and Baal; and this they could not do. We really like an out and outer. We almost said, "If you are going to be a sinner, be a sinner; if you are going to be a saint, be a saint." No one cares for a middle-of-the-roader the one who is neither on one side or the other just riding a fence. We ought to let everyone know where we are, and how we stand. "How long halt ye between two opinions?" "If the Lord be God, follow Him, but if Baal, then follow him." Come out and make your allegiance known.

There is one thing I have against the modernists. I do not object to anybody being a modernist; this is a country of religious liberty. What I do object to is man being a modernist, and wearing sheep's clothing. He has no right to stand in a pulpit, dedicated to an orthodox testimony and to the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ, unless he defends that testimony and faith. He has no right to draw his salary from people who really believe in God, when he denies the faith. In the days of Ingersoll, Huxley, Payne, and Spencer, the infidels were outside of the nominal church; today they are. inside; they are trying to serve both God and mammon and it cannot be done.

We must either go one way, or the other. Let us not be half-breeds; but full-fledged believers and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

If a person is trying to follow the Lord on one hand, and the world on the other, he cannot enjoy either the one or the other. When he tries to enjoy the Lord, he cannot, for the Lord will chasten him for his wanderings. When he tries to enjoy the world, he cannot, for he feels so mean about his inconsistencies. So, we say, "How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him." Make your decision, take your stand and do not be a middle-of-the-roader.

After Elijah had spoken, we find in the 39th verse, that the people fell on their faces and said, "The Lord, He is the God; the Lord, He is the God."

II. HEARING BUT NOT DOING (Ezekiel 33:31-32 )

"And they came unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as My people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them; for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness."

"And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not."

"And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come), then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them."

There are still plenty of people like the Israelites in the days of Ezekiel. Did you ever see a willow tree lift up its head? When the wind blows toward the north, it bows north; when the wind blows south, it bows south it goes with the wind. We have seen such people. When we say, "Let us pray," down they go, and then up again. However, there is no real devotion. They say, "Yes, I go to church. I like the choir. It certainly is wonderful. It is marvelous how the pianist tickles the keys." If that is all that Christ and the church are to you like one who plays well on an instrument, like one who sings a lovely song with a pleasant voice, like one that gives forth a message that pleases the ear, then we had better close shop and go home. You know that, as well as L What we want is a message that vitalizes, a message that changes hearts, a message that turns lives away from the old path, into the new. Is Christ and the Church no more to you than a lovely song, and a pleasant voice? Do you hear, but never do? Then may God help you!

III. FEARING GOD AND SERVING OTHER GODS (2 Kings 17:25 ; 2 Kings 17:33-34 )

2 Kings 17:1-41 th chapter, gives you God's story about conditions in Samaria. 2 Kings 17:25 says, "They feared not the Lord: therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which slew some of them."

Now 2 Kings 17:33 : "They feared the Lord, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations whom they carried away from thence." "Unto this day they do after the former manners: they fear not the Lord, neither do they after their statutes, or after their ordinances, or after the Law and Commandment which the Lord commanded the children of Jacob."

There are still some people, who, when the lions come, begin to fear the Lord. However, they do not fear Him in their hearts; for they still worship their own god.

A form of religion without the heart thereof, is a hollow mockery; it is not acceptable; it is not pleasing to God. To be approved unto God, you must have a faith that is in the heart; a faith that changes the life. This going to church, and going through with a mere form of service is an abomination to God, especially when the mind and heart are all the time occupied with carnal pursuits with other gods. Why go to church, if you immediately go out into the world and live godless, careless, and faithless lives?

That was the trouble with this people in Samaria; they feared the Lord sometimes, but not all the time. Too often men play religion and seek to show off with it as they use their Sunday clothes; they put it on Sunday morning, and lay it aside Sunday night. They think they have no need for Christ until the next Sunday.

That is not the kind of Christians that we want. We want men who are living Christ every day, every hour, all the way through. This halfhearted land of religion is not Christianity at all, I have known people to come to church on the Lord's Day and teach a Sunday School class, and then, during the week they are in the theaters, at the card parties, in the drinking saloons, and doing everything under the sun. Beloved, we cannot afford to do such things. God will not have them at our hands.

IV. NEITHER COLD NOR HOT (Revelation 3:16 )

Do we believe the Lord is God? Let us then take our stand with Him in full allegiance and not in a halfhearted, half-bred, half-baked way. The 3rd chapter of the Book of Revelation says, in Revelation 3:16 : "Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth."

Then there is a verse that almost startles us. It says, "I would thou wert cold or hot."

In other words, God would rather have us cold, than tepid.

Do you like to drink lukewarm water? Isn't it sickening? Hot water is all right; cold water is all right; but deliver us from warm water. No marvel the Lord says, "Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth."

God does not want halfhearted Christians. You remember how, in the Book of Ecclesiastes, in its discussion of the religion of the man under the sun, it says: "Be not righteous over much, * *; Be not over much wicked." Just be "so-so."

There is a great word down South. In the old days, I used to meet a colored brother on the street. I would say, "How are you, today, Uncle John?" He would reply "Oh, just tol'ble, Brother Neighbour." "Tolerable" means neither cold nor hot; neither well nor sick; just able to wiggle. I dislike meeting such professors. I want people to be hot; and, if they are not hot, let them be cold not lukewarm. It is the lukewarm spirit in the church that does the harm. The devil is anxious to keep you a middle-of-the-roader, because you will have no influence for God; in fact your influence will count on the side of evil every time.


Turn to Hosea 7:1-16 th chapter, Hosea 7:8 . Here is a passage that is very striking.

"Ephraim, he hath mixed himself among the people; Ephraim is a cake not turned."

That is, Ephraim is baked on one side. It is an unpleasant feeling to bite into a pancake or griddlecake, and find it half-raw.

There are some Christians who are only half-baked. I have a great yearning in my own spirit to go all the way with God; and I want to see our people go all the way with God. Let us not be half-baked Christians; let us not be onesided in anything.

Hosea presents a great story for backsliding people. "Ephraim is a cake not turned," because Ephraim is mixing himself among the people. God called Ephraim to be separated from other peoples, to be a people for His own possession. Ephraim rebelled and mixed with the people, and was like a cake not turned.

VI. WORSHIPING, BUT WICKED (Isaiah 1:11-15 )

What makes the Lord's Supper precious to Him? When we eat and drink of it in loving remembrance of His broken body, and shed Blood, then He is pleased. Unless, however, we have been washed in that Blood, and have been separated by His Cross, and, unless we have discerned the Lord's body, there is nothing that we can do that will bring a greater stench to the nostrils of the Almighty God, than to attempt to remember the Lord's table.

Some people say, "I think I had better be Baptized." "Wait a minute. You should not be baptized unless you know what it means." What does it mean? It means, "I am buried"; it means "I have a new life." God cannot accept Church ordinances, unless back of them is a real life.

You say, "Isn't it right to bring my gift to the altar?" Certainly. But, "If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." Do not be a saint, worshiping, but wicked. You should bring your gift to the altar, but you should not fail to be right with your brother. Does another have anything against you? Leave thy gift, go, be reconciled to thy broth-er, and then, come, offer thy gift. God will not accept your gifts, if you are not clear with your brother.


A negro pastor down South called for a hymn, and asked everyone to come up and put down their money; The parson stood by the table, watching to encourage them to give properly. The Lord once stood over against the treasury. On this day the minister said; "We have three rules in raising our collection. The first is, 'All of you is got to give something;' secondly, 'All of you must give as you is able;' thirdly, 'All of you must give cheerfully.'" By and by one of the richer negroes came up, and laid down something. The pastor said, "Take your money and go back, my brother; you gave something all right, and you gave cheerfully, all right; but you did not give as you were able." So he went back. After a little he started up the aisle again. This time he gave a nice big offering, but he threw it down, angrily. The preacher said, "Brother, you have given something, and you have given as you were able, but you have not given cheerfully take it back." By and by the same rich negro came up again with a big smile on his face and put down his money. The preacher said, "That is good. You gave something, you gave as you were able, and you gave cheerfully God bless you, brother."

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Bibliographical Information
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Matthew 23". "Living Water".