The Sin of Hypocrisy

In describing the role humans play on this planet , an illustrious dramatist wrote, “The earth is just a gigantic stage and every individual, an actor…”

While this statement is somewhat true, the sad reality of acting is that the actor is only a pretender! In other words, he mimics a role that is not true to his character. In ancient Greece and Rome a stage actor was referred to as an ‘hy.po.kri.tes’ (Gk), or a ‘hypocrite’ (English), because he masked himself and amplified his voice in order to convince his audience into believing that he was someone else.

Therefore, the Biblical usage of the word hypocrite (Heb: cha.neph; Gk: hy.po.kri.tes) does not only connote pretence or falsity, but also a state of being soiled, corrupt, polluted, profane, wicked, impious, godless and deceitful. With this definition in mind, it is imperative that we understand hypocrisy is not to be treated frivolously. Jesus’ invectives against the hypocrisies of the scribes and the Pharisees were meant to expose the gravity of this sin.

In Matthew 23:25-28, our Lord described hypocrites as individuals who were seemingly religious but covertly evil. The scribes and Pharisees were used as examples because they portrayed an outward appearance of godliness but were unconverted on the inside. Isaiah had perfectly described them by stating: “Forasmuch as this people draw near to me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men…” (Isa. 29:13, Mt. 15:8-9). Jesus further pointed out that the outward manifestations of religion, such as the giving of alms, saying of long prayers and even fasting, were useless without a genuine conversion of the heart. By themselves these forms of godliness would produce no eternal rewards. He said, “But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Mt. 6:2-7, 16, Mt. 15:9).

By faking conversion, the heart of the hypocrite is not delivered from the power of darkness but rather retains its original wickedness. Jeremiah described it as, “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked”, (Jer. 17:9) while Matthew 15:19 depicted it as the source of “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witness, [and] blasphemies…” This lack of an inward working of the Holy Ghost results in a life of pretence, feigned obedience and spiritual blindness. The Pharisees and Sadducees were described by the Lord as being able to discern the face of the sky, but unable to discern the signs of the times. (Mt. 16:3). They were blind leaders of the blind. (Mt. 15:14).

In Matthew 23, Jesus castigated the Scribes and Pharisees for being hypocritical in their religious duties, and catalogued their sins as follows:

· They were an impediment to others entering into the kingdom (v. 13).

· They were unjust in their conduct to widows and the less fortunate (v. 14).

· They were a bad influence on new converts (v. 15).

· The were foolish and blind in religious duties (v. 16-22).

· They lacked judgment, mercy and faith (v. 23).

· They magnified the petty errors of others while overlooking the beam in their own eyes. (v. 24).

· Externally they were meticulously religious, while internally very wicked (vs. 25-28).

· The hypocrites idolized dead leaders of the past, but failed to esteem the current pastors that laboured among them (vs. 29-32).

Solomon described a very devious characteristic of the hypocrite and showed the detrimental results it can have on those exposed to it. He wrote, “An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour…” (Prov. 11:9). The Apostle Paul warned of a falling away of many that were influenced by “seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy…” (1 Tim 4:1-2).

Isaiah described the hypocrite of his day by saying, “Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? And who knoweth us?” (Isa. 29:15). Again in chapter 32:6, the prophet declared, “For the vile person will speak villany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practise hypocrisy, and to utter error against the Lord, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail.” In other words, everyone who believes a hypocrite will lose their standing in God and eventually backslide from the church.

It is quite evident from scripture that the possibility of hypocrisy lies with every one of us who has a tendency of faking our Christian experiences. If left unchecked, the hypocrite will become a prime candidate for the working of iniquity and the undermining of God’s work.

Since hypocrisy is such a grave and penetrating sin (see Luke 12:1-2), the consequences are also severe. In the book of Job we are told that:

1. The hypocrite’s hope shall perish (8:13, 27:8).
2. He shall not come before the Lord. (13:16b).
3. His congregation or company shall be desolate (15:34).
4. The innocent or just shall stir (arise) himself against the hypocrite. (17:8).
5. His joy shall be short-lived. (20:5).

In the book of Matthew, Jesus said that the hypocrite is unworthy of everlasting life. (Matt. 24:45-51).

As we weigh the consequences of hypocrisy let us ask the Lord to deliver us from every trace of this dreadful sin. (1 Pt. 2:1-2).

“The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be Intreated full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy”. (Js. 3:17).