Saturday, September 20, 2014


By Angela Bhandal

Definition: an actor playing the part of another. From the Greek word ‘hypokrites’. When Greek actors (hypocrites) performed, they used masks which represented the character each portrayed. This suggests that the hypocrite is a person whose real self and motives are masked, perhaps even from themselves.

The Bible has a lot to say about hypocrisy and most of it is directed to the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. In Matthew 23, Jesus describes the actions that merit this term of hypocrite and we will get to that shortly but first what does it mean to be a ‘Pharisee’? The term ‘Pharisee’ means ‘separated ones’ and it applied to a small but extremely influential group or sect of lay men who were committed to:

1)      “strictly of in Jewish culture at the time of Jesus observe all of the ordinances of Judaism concerning ritual purity as defined by tradition”

2)      “scrupulously carry out religious duties, such as tithing and the performance of religious washings.”

They really looked down on and scorned ordinary Israelites because they had no knowledge of the Law. So the Pharisees exalted themselves above others. Pharisaism was the leading sect in Jesus’ day. They were even influential enough to set the form of prayers and religious services in synagogues which were dominated by another sect – the Sadducees.

Their influence was rooted in two things

1)      “the great respect the common people had for these men who were committed to the most strict observances of their religion”

2)      “the presence of a number of the Pharisees on the Sanhedrin – the Jewish ruling council”

Not only did the Pharisees think they had the truth through the Scriptures but also believed that Moses had communicated an oral law of equal standing and that this oral law was found in their traditions.

So not only did the Pharisees feel they had the truth but also the right to stand in judgment on other religious teachers.

Let’s read Matthew 23:1-28

So from these verses, what can we see? What really stands out for me is this: everything a Pharisee does is for the people around them to see – they loved the praise and adulation of people. They love the place of honour, they loved to be called ‘teacher’ (which is a position of authority).

They thought that outward expressions on their piety (that is their clothing – long tassels, prayer boxes on their foreheads etc) equates to spirituality. With their outward appearance they deceived converts who really wanted to know God, to follow their example and thus condemned them to the wrong path which leads to hell. Moreover they diligently tithe unimportant things and neglect important things such as justice, mercy and faithfulness.

Jesus really condemns their actions, comparing them to a cup which is clean on the outside but dirty inside, thus they neglect the inner person which is full of greed and self-indulgence despite their outward appearance. They appear to be righteous but on the inside they are full of hypocrisy and wickedness!

Is this who we want to be like? Is the spirit of Pharisaism in our lives also? Do we wear a mask, pretending to be Christian when we are together but at other times we live and act as pagans? Can you think of examples in your own lives where hypocrisy was present yet you weren’t aware of it? It is very easy to justify ourselves and not examine our lives but let us ask ourselves these questions. How often do we want others to notice our good works? Do we look down on others who may not be as fortunate as ourselves?  Do we like to be exalted and hate feeling humble? Do we like to be flattered and hate being corrected or rebuked? How do we treat those next to us, husbands or wives or children or friends, colleagues, when nobody is around? How often have we been greedy for more of something? How often do we indulge ourselves but neglect those next to us who may be struggling? All questions not designed to condemn but to become aware of who we are and how we live our lives and with God’s help to begin to change!

Does anyone know what the antidote to hypocrisy is?

Love – self-less love which can only come through Jesus Christ who sets us free through his death on the cross.  After this self-less act of providing redemption for all mankind, He arose from the dead and reigns victoriously over death and the deeds that lead to death both physical and spiritual. Hallelujah and Amen!

Through Jesus and Jesus alone, we can put to death the deeds of the body/flesh that results in hypocrisy. If this is something you have identified in your life and want to change, it’s just a matter of repentance – ask God to forgive you and help you to change. Ask God to take the yeast of hypocrisy from your life and replace it with the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

The Pharisees were hypocrites – they had the truth and a type of spirituality which exalted themselves over other Israelites. If only they had an inward faith that matched their outward deeds and practiced justice, mercy and faithfulness. Let us not be like the Pharisees but sincere followers of Jesus Christ.

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