What is Virtue Signaling?

silhouette image of person praying

Virtue Signanling basically means NOT HAVING the right inward motives WHILE outwardly appearing to follow laws or being helpful.  We will read from the Bible ( Luke 20 and Mathew 23)  this type of Virtue Signaling.  And then, we will read from Mathew 6, which tells us how to help people without being prideful.  

Let’s Pray: Thank you for gathering us together here to read your word.  Bless our time together, bless our family and friends.  God, I recognize there are times where my inner Pride comes to the surface. During our study, reveal to me any wrong motives I have, and give me right motivations instead. Help me fully accept Your grace, mercy, and love, and guide me as I seek to live out the true virtue You call me to. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

cheerful young woman screaming into megaphone

Devotional on Virtue Signaling 

Virtue signaling is a concept that’s grown increasingly popular on social media, in the news, and in casual conversation. But it’s actually not a new phenomenon. So, what is it? Basically, it’s a negative phrase most often used to call out people who seem to be concerned about how they look publicly without having the right motives privately. 

Throughout Scripture, we see common themes of people trying to appear outwardly righteous while being inwardly prideful. In fact, the Pharisees were  virtue signalers. 

Let’s back up. The Pharisees were religious leaders who were strict about observing the Law given in the Old Testament. In fact, they were so strict about not wanting to break any laws, they invented new laws—and they wanted everyone to know it. 

In Luke 20, we find out that they prayed elaborate prayers in public while cheating widows out of their property in private. Talk about virtue signaling! 

They got so caught up with following the Law that they didn’t see what was right in front of them—a Savior offering both truth and grace.

Jesus was well aware of their religious theater and empty virtue signaling, and He was not pleased with it. In Matthew 23, He doesn’t hold back on His criticism of their behavior: 

Mathew Henry writes. 

The scribes and Pharisees explained the law of Moses, and enforced obedience to it. They are charged with hypocrisy in religion. We can only judge according to outward appearance; but God searches the heart. They made phylacteries. These were scrolls of paper or parchment, wherein were written four paragraphs of the law, to be worn on their foreheads and left arms, Exodus 13:2-10; 13:11-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21. They made these phylacteries broad, that they might be thought more zealous for the law than others. God appointed the Jews to make fringes upon their garments, Numbers 15:38, to remind them of their being a peculiar people; but the Pharisees made them larger than common, as if they were thereby more religious than others. Pride was the darling, reigning sin of the Pharisees, the sin that most easily beset them, and which our Lord Jesus takes all occasions to speak against. For him that is taught in the word to give respect to him that teaches, is commendable; 


As we read.  Mathew 23 consider your behavior, inner thoughts, your communication, and posts and compare yours to the behavior Jesus wants for his disciples and leaders.  

Readings to help you understand virtue signaling. 

Reading Luke 20 45:47. Be on Guard. 

Reading Mathew 23 1-12. The Warning. 

Reading Mathew 23 13- 15 the fraud 

Reading Mathew 16-22  Promises

Reading Mathew 23- 39 fraud and hopelessness. 

Reading Mathew 6:1-6 

Jesus warns you to be on Guard. 

“As all the people listened to him, Jesus said to his disciples, “Be on your guard against the teachers of the Law, who like to walk around in their long robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplace; who choose the reserved seats in the synagogues and the best places at feasts; who take advantage of widows and rob them of their homes, and then make a show of saying long prayers! Their punishment will be all the worse!””

Luke 20:45-47 GNTD

The Warning to Practice Bible Preaching instead the actions of Preachers. 

“Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Matthew 23:1-12 NIV


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Jesus calls out the wrongs of the Pharisees. 

““How terrible for you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees! You hypocrites! You lock the door to the Kingdom of heaven in people’s faces, but you yourselves don’t go in, nor do you allow in those who are trying to enter!

“How terrible for you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees! You hypocrites! You sail the seas and cross whole countries to win one convert; and when you succeed, you make him twice as deserving of going to hell as you yourselves are!”

Matthew 23:13, 15 GNTD

““How terrible for you, blind guides! You teach, ‘If someone swears by the Temple, he isn’t bound by his vow; but if he swears by the gold in the Temple, he is bound.’ Blind fools! Which is more important, the gold or the Temple which makes the gold holy? You also teach, ‘If someone swears by the altar, he isn’t bound by his vow; but if he swears by the gift on the altar, he is bound.’ How blind you are! Which is the more important, the gift or the altar which makes the gift holy? So then, when a person swears by the altar, he is swearing by it and by all the gifts on it; and when he swears by the Temple, he is swearing by it and by God, who lives there; and when someone swears by heaven, he is swearing by God’s throne and by him who sits on it.”

Matthew 23:16-22 GNTD

Jesus explains the proper way to to act towards religion and prayer. 

““Make certain you do not perform your religious duties in public so that people will see what you do. If you do these things publicly, you will not have any reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give something to a needy person, do not make a big show of it, as the hypocrites do in the houses of worship and on the streets. They do it so that people will praise them. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. But when you help a needy person, do it in such a way that even your closest friend will not know about it. Then it will be a private matter. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you. “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites! They love to stand up and pray in the houses of worship and on the street corners, so that everyone will see them. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. But when you pray, go to your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you.”

Matthew 6:1-6 GNTD

References:   Life Church and Mathew Henry Commentary.  NIV Bible, Luke 20 GNTD.