The word hypocrite is based on the Greek theatrical word that means “actor” or “to play a part.” Hypocrites pretend to be something they are not. Psalm 26:4 calls them “false men” (RSV), but in the Gospels the implications are more specific: Hypocrites pretend to be model of righteousness but in reality they are unrighteous to the core. They honor God with their lips, but their heart is far from him (Mk 7:6).
The Pharisees are the classic hypocrites of the Bible. It’s easy to paint a picture of them from Jesus’ description of them.
- They are showy when they give money with the intent that people will praise them (Mt 6:2).
- They pray publicly in a flashy way so people will take note (Mt 6:5).
- When they fast, they disfigure their faces (Mt 6:16).
- They tithe their garden produce but neglect “the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith” (Mt 23:23).
- Jesus says they, “clean the outside of a drinking cup but ignore the filth inside it (Mt 23:25).
- They are self-righteous (Mt 23:29-30)
- They teach people false religious beliefs (Mt 23:16-22)
- They pretend to care about tough issues, but actually want to discredit Jesus (Mt 22:15-22).
- They prevent people from entering the kingdom of heaven (Mt 23:13-15).
- Jesus pictures them as “whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Mt 23:27).
- Jesus says they have a special place in hell (Mt 24:51).
God’s people must constantly beware of the dangers of hypocrisy.
Here are some red flags:
- When you accuse others of what you are guilty of yourself (Matt 7:5; Luke 13:15; Rom 2:1-3,19-24).
- When you flatter others, or change your stated opinion just to please others (Ps 12:3-4; Gal 2:13).
- All falsehood, faking or pretending whether in speech or actions, is hypocrisy (1 Peter 2:1).
How can a Christ follower avoid hypocrisy? Six times the New Testament stresses that we live with sincerity, (instead of hypocrisy.) (Rom. 12:9; 2 Cor. 6:6; 1 Pet. 1:22,1 Tim. 1:5; 2 Tim. 1:5; Jas. 3:17)
For more about the series Scary People, go to www.ridgefellowship.com
Dictionary of Biblical Imagery
Holman Bible Dictionary
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
The AMG Concise Bible Dictionary