|The Prayer in Secret - Alexandre Bida|
TO CHEW ON: “‘Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogue and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.’” Matthew 6:2
Hypocrite (hypokrites) is an interesting word. My study Bible describes how it comes from the Greek word hypokrinomai—the dialogue of actors who wore masks that amplified their voices. A hypokrites was one who acted in a play or read a script.
The dictionary definition of hypocrite is:
1] A person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles etc. that he or she does not actually possess; 2] A person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, whose private life, opinions or statements belie his or her public statements.
A short survey of “hypocrisy” in the Bible shows us some of its faces.
Hypocrisy can be:
- Words that don’t agree with intentions, especially when they relate to others, like our neighbours - Isaiah 55:21 also Psalm 28:3; Isaiah 62:4; Jeremiah 9:8.
- Flattery - Psalm 78:36; Matthew 22:16.
- Actions or words that set a trap - Jeremiah 9:8; Proverbs 7:15; Mark 12:15.
- Actions or words that shirk responsibility - e.g. Pilate, when he washed his hands of Jesus making like he was helpless to do anything but give in to the wishes of the mob was a hypocrite - Matthew 27:24.
- Religious words or actions that are insincere- Jeremiah 12;2; 22:20.
- Religious words or actions performed to fool God- Jeremiah 3:10.
- Religious words or actions performed to manipulate God - Isaiah 58:3.
- Religious words or actions to further one’s own ends - Zechariah 7:5, our passage Matthew 6:1-15; James 2:1-4.
I love the picturesque language Jesus used to describe hypocrisy (which He pointed out often in the Pharisees and scribes):
- He said hypocrites were like whitewashed tombs, beautiful on the outside but inside full of uncleanness and dead bones (Matthew 23:28).
- He said they were like cups and dishes, clean on the outside but full of greed and wickedness inside - Luke 11:39.
- He said the hypocrisy of the Pharisees permeated everything they did, like yeast permeates bread - Luke 12:1.
What a mess! Who'd want to have anything to do with a hypocrite or hypocrisy? Yet when I’m honest with myself, I have to admit I’ve been a hypocrite in both my dealings with others and God.
To eliminate hypocrisy, a good place to start is to be self-aware and recognize hypocrisy where it first appears—in our thoughts. Proverbs says of the miser, who invites you to eat and drink but is inwardly critical: “As he thinks in his heart, so is he” - Proverbs 23:7.
Then we need to acknowledge it as sin - 1 John 1:10.
Finally, we need to make a conscious effort to purge hypocrisy from our lives as we love everyone—God and our fellow humans—sincerely and with pure motives. “Let love be without hypocrisy” - Romans 12:9.
PRAYER: Dear Father, help me to be aware of hypocrisy in my life, to acknowledge it as sin and to learn to love sincerely. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.