Most of us have seen movies in theaters or on television. We have seen plays enacted by school children or professionals. Plays were common even in biblical times. An actor portrays a character by speaking his words, expressing his emotion, and doing his actions. A good actor makes us believe that he is that character. But we know that the actor is not really that character, but merely playing a part. And such is a hypocrite. He is an actor who makes us believe that he is a true Christian. God condemns the hypocrite. Let us look at some examples in scripture of hypocritical actions.
The first example is in praying. Matthew 6:5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” These individuals did not genuinely desire to communicate with God. Since most people see praying as a righteous action, they wanted to be seen as righteous, pious individuals. They acted the part of a righteous person so that others would respect and praise them as righteous. But Jesus said in verse 6 “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Don’t pray just to receive the praise of men; instead, pray privately to your heavenly Father. God wants to hear your sincere prayer.
The second example is in fasting. Matthew 6:16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” Fasting is to voluntarily deny yourself food when you are hungry. It is an act of self-discipline and can direct your hunger toward God and draw you closer to God as you deny yourself the needs of the body. Such fasting is generally seen as a righteous action. But the hypocrites were fasting, not to draw closer to God, but to be seen as righteous so that others would respect and praise them. Jesus says in verses 17 and 18 “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Don’t fast just to receive the praise of men; instead, fast without making it obvious that you are fasting. God wants you to draw near to Him in fasting.
The third example is in doing charitable deeds. Matthew 6:1 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Voluntarily helping someone in need is generally seen as a good, righteous deed. People will respect and praise you for your generosity. But the hypocrites were doing their charitable deeds, not because they cared for the one in need, but so that others would respect and praise them. Jesus continues in verses 3-4 “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.” Don’t do your good deeds to receive the praise of men. It shouldn’t matter to you if others know what you do or not. God wants you to help others because you have compassion and love for them.
We have other examples in the scriptures of hypocrisy. Some came to Jesus and pretended to want to know the truth but in reality they wanted to trap Him and condemn Him in what He said (Mark 12:13-15). Then there is the case of the speck or plank in the eye (Matthew 7:4-5) where one tries to help someone with a small problem when they themselves have a big problem. Even the apostle Peter was hypocritical when he freely associated with the Gentiles until fellow Jews came on the scene and then he disassociated himself from the Gentiles to appear to the Jews that he was a righteous Jew (Galatians 2:11-13).
The hypocrite wants to be seen as righteous so that others will respect and praise him. Matthew 23:5-7 “But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’” Matthew 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.” Matthew 23:27-28 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” What a description of hypocrisy! Outwardly they appeared beautiful but inwardly they were full of rottenness.
How might you be a hypocrite? You might follow some of the examples of hypocrites given above. You might do righteous actions but you do them partly because you want to appear righteous before others. You might go to the church assembly and appear righteous when you don’t really want to be there to encourage your fellow Christian or worship God. You might pretend to love others when you don’t really love them. Romans 12:9 “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” You might say and do good things when around fellow Christians, but when you are with people of the world, you talk and act just like they do. You might live a secret sin life. You criticize others but do the same things yourself.
My encouragement to you is to stop being a hypocrite. When you find hypocrisy in your life, confess it to God and repent. Be a genuine follower of Jesus inside and out. Let your righteous words and deeds come from your heart.