THE ROOTS OF HYPOCRISY
The Language of the Profane
Hypocrisy is one of those sins that the Saviour was most emphatic in condemning in His ministry and is a sin which plagues the human condition with its tendency to say one thing and do another. In English a hypocrite is one who deliberately, and as a habit, professes to be good when he is aware that he is not. But this is only one aspect of the word which finds its derivation from the Greek hypokritÚs and in its Biblical sense a hypocrite is a play actor.
The Greek hypokretÚs is closely related to the Hebrew cha'neph which means "profane", "irreligious" and "godless". Indeed, many translations of the Bible render the Greek as both "profane", "irreligious", and "godless" as well as "impious", "apostate", "cunning" and "wickedness".
The Lord Jesus Christ identified as hypocrites persons who make gifts of mercy with showy display, who pray and fast to be seen of men, and who pick on the straw-like faults of their brothers but do nothing about removing their own rafter-like faults. Christ classified as such those who claimed to be God's servants but who failed to discern the significance of the time in which they were living and the events that were occurring, while readily drawing conclusions from the appearance of earth and sky as to what the weather would be like (Matt.6:2,5,16; 7:1-5; Lk.6:42; 12:54-56).
Not only did the Saviour denounce the religious leaders of Israel as hypocrites while He was on earth, but He also stated His reasons for doing do. They rendered mere lip-service to their Creator, making the Word of God invalid because of their traditions (Matt.15:1,6-9; Mk.7:6-7). Their actions were out of harmony with their words (Matt.23:1-3). The scribes and Pharisees not only deliberately refused to avail themselves of the opportunity to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but they added to their sin by trying to hinder others from doing so. They put forth every effort to convert someone, only to make him twice as much a subject of hell as they were. They were sticklers for the little things of the Law but disregarded the weightier matters of it -- justice, mercy, and faithfulness. As hypocrites, they possessed only a seemingly clean outward appearance; inside they were full of immoderateness. Like whitewashed graves, outwardly beautiful, they appeared righteous to men, but inside they were "full of hypocrisy and lawlessness". They built the graves of the prophets and decorated the memorial tombs of the righteous ones, claiming that they would not have shed the blood of such. However, their course of action proved them to be just like their murderous forefathers (Matt.23:13-36). The teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees was actually hypocrisy (Matt.16:6,12; Lk.12:1; see also Lk.13:11-17).
A striking example of a hypocritical course was that followed by the disciples of the Pharisees and the party followers of Herod when approaching Jesus on the tax question. First they resorted to flattery, saying: "Teacher, we know you are truthful and teach the way of God in truth." Then they posed the catch question: "Is it lawful to pay head tax to Caesar or not?" Appropriately Jesus referred to them as hypocrites, since they were not really desirous of getting an answer to their question but merely raised it with a view to trapping Jesus in His speech (Matt.22:15-22; Lk.20:19-26).
A hypocritical course cannot be concealed indefinitely (Lk.12:1-3). Hypocrites are condemned by God as unworthy of everlasting life (Matt.24:48-51). Therefore, a Christian's love and faith must be without hypocrisy (Rom.12:9; 2 Cor.6:4,6; 1 Tim.1:5). God's wisdom, which comes from above, is not hypocritical (Jas.3:17).
This page was created on 12 May 1998
Last updated on 12 May 1998
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