Hypocrisy is possibly the most despised, yet universally practiced human activity. Daniel Taylor wrote, “Better to be a baby killer than a hypocrite. ‘At least I’m not a hypocrite’ is the squeaky defense of many a moral mouse.”
Miriam Webster defines hypocrisy as, “The behavior of people who do things that they tell other people not to do: behavior that does not agree with what someone claims to believe or feel.” Based upon this definition, the more that is spoken, but not performed and believed, but not behaved…the greater the hypocrisy.
The only sure cure for hypocrisy (apart from death) would be to say as little as possible, fervently avoid interaction with others, hold few values or beliefs and share or espouse none of them. Impossible? Of course! Not to mention impractical and unrealistic.
In the koine or common Greek language, popularized by Alexander the Great, the word hypocrite meant being an actor onstage and putting on a mask or a disguise. Actors were known as hypocrites and this of course was without any negative connotation. They wore masks to be effective actors – they deliberately misrepresented who they were, in order to be entertaining. However, in the real world, especially in the world of religion, being a hypocrite, is evil.
It is not surprising then that Jesus was very overt and pointed in His condemnation of hypocrisy; especially when it was found amongst the religious leaders of His day. In Matthew 15:1-20 Jesus responded to a criticism that the Pharisees brought. They criticized His disciples for not washing their hands before eating.
This precipitated a serious denunciation upon the religious rulers which included, amongst other things, calling them hypocrites. He said, “Why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? You nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me…their teachings are merely human rules.” (Matthew 15:3–9 abridged). (In verse 12, His disciples, almost humorously, ask Jesus if He thought the Pharisees were offended)
Jesus’ discourse did not just bring judgment, but provided insights and solutions for hypocrisy. He said, “Listen…What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth…defiles them” (Matthew 15:10, 11). Hypocrisy is an internal problem so it requires an internal solution.
I believe a good start is recognizing that there is always an audience of One, and that we can never hide from Him! Moreover, why would we want to hide from Him?
“The all-seeing God, apprehended in the conscience, will be the death of hypocrisy.” Charles Spurgeon
FAITH & REFLECTION