Hypocrisy doesn’t taste good, does it? There is something loathsome about the politician who makes rules they themselves don’t keep, or the preacher who fails to practise what he preaches. They tell us one thing, but they live differently. Their exhortations are a sham which mock the hearer. Understandably, then, we demand resignations when it is exposed. And unsurprisingly, hypocrisy of this kind, when discovered, often makes a juicy news story.
The English word hypocrite is a transliteration from the Greek word for a play-actor. Its word group (including hypocrisy) comes 37 times in the King James Bible – I guess likely a significant source of its current English usage.
Jesus quite often spoke about hypocrisy and hypocrites. However, rather surprisingly, He seemed to use it in a different sense. The hypocrites He had in view weren’t covering up some double standard in their lifestyle. In fact, their lives were morally clean and tidy. They were scrupulous about sex and money. Their prayer lives were conspicuous, their financial tithing a matter of public record. Had they had a browser history, it would likely have looked clean.
So what was their hypocrisy? Just this: their outward conformity was not matched by their inner desires and motives.
You can see this in Matthew’s gospel, particularly chapters 6 and 23. Outside, those He speaks about were all pious; all the religious club membership boxes could be ticked. But inside, they were full of greed, pride and selfishness. They were big on prayer – but so that others could see. They were public about their giving – so that others would admire them. They honoured God with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him. Their religion was one for show, but not of heart conviction.
When I understand hypocrisy in these terms, I feel the spotlight sweeping me. Do you?
We’re shortly to be starting reading the Sermon on the Mount in our Bible talks on Sunday mornings. If there is one supreme distinctive of this wonderful teaching of Jesus, it is His focus on our hearts, our inner motives.
The Sermon on the Mount is a deep clean of our souls.
And isn’t that something we need? Deep down, don’t we want to be people who really are the real thing, without pretence, whole people, not play acting? Let’s join the journey together, starting on 3rd October at 10.00am and 11.45am.