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The Issues With Hypocrisy (Part 1)

By bro Lee Tian Seng

The Greek word in the New Testament Bible for “Hypocrite” is ὑποκριτής / “hupokritēs” and the word means “an actor under an assumed character (stage player), that is, (figuratively) a dissembler” (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, 1890). This word appears 20 times in the New Testament. A hypocrite is “one who feigns to be what he is not; who puts on a false person, like actors in tragedies and comedies. It is generally applied to those who assume appearances of a virtue without possessing it in reality” (Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature).

What does a hypocrite do? What is wrong with being a hypocrite?

The Issues with Hypocrisy:

1. Hypocrites deceive others

A hypocrite puts up a false front or pretends to possess certain goodness, with the intention to deceive others. Do you know that when we deceive others, we are actually deceiving ourselves and God? In Acts 5:1-10, Ananias and Sapphira sold a piece of land, kept back part of the money for themselves and gave the rest to the apostles. The apostle Peter said to Ananias: “While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:4).

Some Christians would still live hypocritically to deceive others despite knowing that there is no way to deceive God. God knows our deepest thoughts.

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.

You know my sitting down and my rising up;

You understand my thought afar off.

You comprehend my path and my lying down,

And are acquainted with all my ways.

(Psalms 139:1-3)

Living as a hypocrite is difficult because one needs to keep up with a false façade and cover a lie or two. Why would anyone want to be a hypocrite when it is so difficult to live a double life? We can deceive some people but we cannot hide our pretence from God.

2. Desire the praises of others

One of the motives of a hypocrite is to seek the praises and honour of others. This could be rewarding in a sense to a hypocrite, but it lasts just for a short time. The Pharisees sought the honour and praises of men. They did good works to be seen by people and loved attention from those around them.

But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi (Matthew 23:5-7).

To look good to others, a hypocrite will work hard to look good on the outside. Hypocrites excel in the external, but God is interested in the internal, in what is in our hearts. Our Lord Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for cleaning the outside of their cups and dishes but left the inside unclean, and compared them to whitewashed tombs which appear beautiful on the outside, but are filled with dead men’s bones inside.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:25-28).

Our Lord Jesus warned His disciples in the Sermon on the Mount about the need to be sincere in their charitable works, prayers and fastings. If these godly acts were performed for the appearance of being religious and righteous, then they will be in vain because God does not accept them.

“Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (Matthew 6:2).

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (Matthew 6:5).

“Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (Matthew 6:16).

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