Sometimes we use words whose significance we do not completely understand. It is particularly problematic when we speak in a foreign language, when we use a word which to us means one thing where as in actual fact means something entirely different. It may create an embarrassing situation for us to say the least. It could create a hostile reaction that sever relationship, which is something no one wants to see happen. If doctors don’t fully understand terms, because most of the vocabularies are not of English origin, the result could be disastrous. It could be a life or death situation.
What about eternal life? Most Christians do not really care about the meaning and implications of the words they use, which has biblical context. For example, do Christians really know what they are saying when they pray, “Lord Jesus, .....”? There are words that come out of the mouths of Christians frequently, like: salvation, eternal life, we are saved, the gospel, the kingdom of God, and many such words. Do they really know what they are saying?
You would probably have heard Christians calling another a hypocrite. Does that person really know the meaning and significance of the word ‘hypocrite’ or ‘hypocrisy’, when he or she uses it? Yet, being a hypocrite is a very serious matter and calling another person a hypocrite is a very serious accusation. Therefore it is important for Christians to understand the meaning and significance of the word ‘hypocrites’ or ‘hypocrisy’, so that we may not end up being one.
Jesus warned the disciples against hypocrisy, the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. What does it mean to be a hypocrite in the biblical sense?
Lk 12:1 In the meantime, when so many thousands of the multitude had gathered together that they trod upon one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.
The dictionary meaning of the word hypocrisy and hypocrite:
hy•poc•ri•sy \hi-ˈpä-krə-sē also hī-\ n
sies [ME ypocrisie, fr. AF, fr. LL hypocrisis, fr. Gk hypokrisis act of playing a part on the stage, hypocrisy, fr. hypokrinesthai to answer, act on the stage, fr. hypo + krinein to decide — more at certain] 13c
1 : a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not esp : the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion
2 : an act or instance of hypocrisy
hyp•o•crite \ˈhi-pə-ˌkrit\ n
[ME ypocrite, fr. AF, fr. LL hypocrita, fr. Gk hypokritēs actor, hypocrite, fr. hypokrinesthai] 13c
1 : a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion
2 : a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings — hypocrite adj
How does this apply to Christians in general? How many Christians are guilty of acting in contradiction to his or her belief willfully? Most Christians truly believe that they are no hypocrites. I am sure that their feelings are genuine. Before we can say with a strong conviction that we are no hypocrites, we must first seek to understand if hypocrisy really means what we thing it means.
The question is, who did the Lord Jesus called hypocrites and why did the Lord Jesus called them so. We all know very well that Jesus called the Pharisees and the scribes hypocrites, but do we fully understand why they were so called? To understand the bible, we must not be hasty in interpreting what we read in our own understanding, which is a habit of many. In order to understand a word, we must understand it in its context, and if it occurs in many passages, we must understand it in a larger context. This means that we must look up the passages in which the words hypocrite and hypocrisy can be found. Those verses where the word hypocrite or hypocrisy appears are as follows.
Hypocrisy: Mt 23:28 , Mk 12:15, Lk 12:1, Ga 2:13, Ja 3:17, 1Pe 2:1 ;
Hypocrite: Mt 6:2, 6:5, 6:16, 7:5 , 23:13, 23:15, 23:23, 23:25, 23:27, 23:29, 17:7, Mk 7:6, Lk 6:42 ;
Hypocritical: Ro 12:9 ;
However, there is not much we could derive from the dictionary’s definition of hypocrisy as far as using it as a base to guide our Christian life. We must look into the teaching of the bible, particularly those of the Lord Jesus. Reading the bible passages that contains the word hypocrisy or hypocrite, we must be careful not to read into the word our own meaning. Unfortunately we tend to do that more often than not.
The wrong notion that Christians have regarding the Pharisee as hypocrites is that they purposely pretend to be worshipers of God, and that they don’t really believe in God, or that they are not zealous for God and keeping His commandments. That cannot be more wrong. The apostle Paul testified that the Pharisee were zealous for the law of God. In fact, Paul called himself the Pharisee of Pharisees, and that he was so zealous for God’s law that he thought the disciples of Jesus had departed from the law of God and follow a man who claimed equality with God, Jesus. That would have been blasphemous. That is why he went all the way to persecute the believers until Jesus revealed to him that Jesus is indeed the messiah sent by God. Then, why are they hypocrites?
From the mouth of the Jesus, it is not that the Pharisees were not zealous to obey the law of God, but that their interpretation of the words of God was from man’s perspective.
Mk 7:5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with hands defiled?” 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ 8 You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men.”
9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God, in order to keep your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die’; 11 but you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is Corban’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God through your tradition which you hand on. And many such things you do.”
The problem with the Pharisees is that while they were so eager to practice the commandments of God, they invented details of how it could be done. One should not defile oneself before
God, particularly not to eat food that is defiled. Hence one must wash hands before meals so that the food one eats may not be accidentally defiled (Mk 75). When one makes a promise, one must keep it. Therefore it is important to define what constitutes a promises (Mt 2316-22). When you promise something to God, it is important the one keeps one’s promise. How would it constitute a promise of something to God? The use of the word ‘Corban’ on something is one example (Mk 711). From that moment that something will have become sacred and no one can have it.
Therefore the Pharisee and scribes are hypocrites, because they seek to serve God with the wisdom of man. As a result, the ways they live and behave are contrary to what God has required in the law.
Mt 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!
It is for this reason that they have become hypocrites, and not because they purposely pretend to be worshipers of the God.
Characteristics of hypocrites
Hypocrites are experts in being judgmental on others according to their own expectations.
Mt 7:1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (also Lk 6:39-42)
Hypocrites are very self-conscious before man, because they love praise of man.
Mt 6:2 “Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
16 “And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Mt 235 They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men.
Hypocrites are interested only in the outward observance of the law and not the spiritual principles that applies to life transformation (Mt 2325-36).
Mt 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity. 26 You blind Pharisee! first cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean.
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation.
Hypocrites are so rigid with and proud of their own teaching that they will defend it at all costs.
Lk 6:39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but every one when he is fully taught will be like his teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.
Mt23:13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
Hypocrisy spreads invisibly and effectively
Lk 13:20 And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
Hypocrisy in the church?
The pharisee and the scribes, because of their focus on how the law of God could explicitly practiced, their became guilty of both extra-biblical and sub-biblical teaching. The invent what is not taught in the word of God, but did not teach what is important in the law that points to the transformation of hearts. The very basic accusation against the Pharisees and the scribes is that they hold fast the teaching of man to be the teaching of God. All the teaching they build on is from the wisdom of God. They seek to do God’s will base on their own understanding and human ways and enthusiasms. The is the root of their hypocrisy. There are clear signs of hypocrisy in Christian churches:
Christian clichés: pot-bless instead of pot-luck, blessed New Year instead of Happy New Year,;
Rules and regulations: thou shall not drink wine, dress codes,;
Phenomenon and practices: form of worship, slaying of Holy Spirit, Holy laughters, etc;
These are the teaching that has absolutely no biblical foundations, and yet we teach them as if it is from the word of God.
Signs and wonders: healing and deliverance meeting taken out of context;
Sub-biblical teaching is the result of Christians being unwilling to learn how to properly expound the word of God. They base their interpretations from a small number of passages and their personal feeling, experiences and heart-felt conviction. If they had done sufficient search and study in the bible, they would have found that there are no less than 60 passages in the Old testament and 40 passages in the New Testament that together in concerted efforts point us to a fuller understanding of diseases and healing testified by the word of God. We will then understanding that the teaching and spiritual principles regarding diseases and healing and casting demons surpasses that of the promotion of the so-called healing and deliverance meetings. In other words, because of the teaching surrounding the activities of healing and deliverance meetings, the power and the glory of God is actually limited by our lack of understanding rather than being magnified and sought after.
Criticism and gossip:
The only chance of Christians not ending in the camp of hypocrites as follows:
- Stop holding on to traditions;
- Renew in the hunger for the understanding of the word of God;
- Stop holding on to one’s inner feeling which of the flesh;
- Longer and hunger for the renewing of the Holy Spirit;
- Stop paying lip services to the Lord;
“Teacher, we know that you are true, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? 15 Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a coin, and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at him.
The Revised Standard Version. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971, S. Mk 12:14
1 Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. 4 They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger.8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. 11 He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; 12 whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If any one swears by the temple, it is nothing; but if any one swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, ‘If any one swears by the altar, it is nothing; but if any one swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; 21 and he who swears by the temple, swears by it and by him who dwells in it; 22 and he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.
The Revised Standard Version. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971, S. Mt 23:1
The Revised Standard Version. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971, S. 39
14 Now they had forgotten to bring bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”
The Revised Standard Version. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971, S. Mk 8:14
The Revised Standard Version. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971, S. 2
The Revised Standard Version. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971, S. Mt 6:16
3 He answered them, “And why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die.’ 5 But you say, ‘If any one tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is given to God, he need not honor his father.’ 6 So, for the sake of your tradition, you have made void the word of God. 7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8 ‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’”
The Revised Standard Version. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971, S. Mt 15:3
9 Let love be genuine ( not hypocritical); hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; 10 love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.
The Revised Standard Version. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971, S. Ro 12:9
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And with him the rest of the Jews acted insincerely, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their insincerity (hypocrisy). 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
The Revised Standard Version. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971, S. Ga 2:11
16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity (hypocrisy).
The Revised Standard Version. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971, S. Jas 3:16
1 So put away all malice and all guile and insincerity (hypocrisy) and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation; 3 for you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
The Revised Standard Version. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971, S. 1 Pe 2:1
11 And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” 12 And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, “Read this,” he says, “I cannot read.” 13 And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment of men learned by rote; 14 therefore, behold, I will again do marvelous things with this people, wonderful and marvelous; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hid.” 15 Woe to those who hide deep from the Lord their counsel, whose deeds are in the dark, and who say, “Who sees us? Who knows us?” 16 You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay; that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?
The Revised Standard Version. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971, S. Is 29:11
9 When Leah saw that she had ceased bearing children, she took her maid Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. 10 Then Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a son. 11 And Leah said, “Good fortune!” so she called his name Gad. 12 Leah’s maid Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. 13 And Leah said, “Happy am I! For the women will call me happy”; so she called his name Asher.
The Revised Standard Version. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971, S. Ge 30:9
2 “I think myself fortunate that it is before you, King Agrippa, I am to make my defense today against all the accusations of the Jews, 3 because you are especially familiar with all customs and controversies of the Jews; therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently.
The Revised Standard Version. Oak Harbor, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1971, S. Ac 26:2