BY PASTOR T. O. BANSO
In the New Testament, the meaning of the word hypocrisy and hypocrite is derived from its use in the Greek drama, where a hypocrite was someone who wore a mask and played a part on stage, mimicked the speech, mannerism, etc. of the character.
The Greek word for hypocrite is hupokrites, meaning an actor, a stage-player, a dissembler, a pretender, a hypocrite. A hypocrite is someone who pretends to be what or who he is not. Jesus did not spare hypocrites during his earthly ministry. He singled them out for rebuke (Matthew 6:1-2, 5, 16; 7:5, 15:7; 22:18; 23:13, 23, 25, 27, 29; Mark 7:6; Luke 6:42; 11:44; 12:56; 13:15).
Oftentimes, Christians are labeled as hypocrites mostly by non-Christians accusing them of professing what they are not. For example, they accuse Christians of preaching love but not practicing it. “Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions. It is by our actions that we know we are living in the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before the Lord” (1 John 3:18-19 NLT). Love is more than talk. It is more about your action. You must walk the talk. James says, “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?’’’ (James 2:15-17 NKJV). It is true that Christians preach this but our behavior, sometimes, contradicts what we ask others to do.
But I must say that Christians are no perfect people, and any attempt by us to present ourselves so will only justify the label of hypocrites some people try to give us. We, Christians, must admit that we’re imperfect people who have put our trust in a perfect God who is shaping our lives as we cooperate with Him in obedience to His word.
Christians should be the first to admit that we’re yet to attain some of the teachings of Jesus that we’re teaching others. If we do, perhaps those who label us as hypocrites will understand us better. Like non-Christians, Christians are daily faced with temptations to sin, and unfortunately, sometimes, we do actually sin “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Galatians 5:17 NKJV).
But there is a difference between someone who is living in sin, practicing sin, enjoying sin, and a Christian who is yet to have complete victory over certain sins. God’s plan is that His children should live above sin but a Christian can still sin (though he shouldn’t), and if he sins, God demands he genuinely repents, asks for, and receives forgiveness, and forsakes that sin. Romans 6:1-2 says, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!” (NKJV). No genuine Christian will justify sin or rationalize it.
A Christian who commits sin is not a hypocrite; he is only yet to be living a victorious life over sin. “So if we continue to live in him, we won’t sin either. But those who keep on sinning have never known him or understood who he is. Dear children, don’t let anyone deceive you about this: When people do what is right, it is because they are righteous, even as Christ is righteous. But when people keep on sinning, it shows they belong to the Devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. But the Son of God came to destroy these works of the Devil. Those who have been born into God’s family do not sin, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they have been born of God” (1 John 3:5-9 NLT).
The word “sinning” in this scripture refers to practising sin. A genuine Christian can sin but he does not practice sin. He is not perfect but he is being transformed by the renewing of his mind day by day (Romans 12:2). This will continue until Jesus comes, when he “will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:21 NKJV).
Therefore, in the real definition of the word hypocrisy, a true Christian is not a hypocrite, and should not be. His life should be devoid of insincerity, double standards, pretence, duplicity. God wants His children to be genuine, to be real, and not to be pretenders or actors. Hypocrites cannot come before God.
Composite Portrait of hypocrites
1. Hypocrites display their charitable deeds to be noticed by others. They are attention seekers. Their motive for doing their good deeds is not the desire to be a blessing to others but to gain the attention of the public. They cannot do any good deed secretly; their focus is public recognition. Here is the warning of Jesus: “Take care! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired, because then you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give a gift to someone in need, don’t shout about it as the hypocrites do — blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I assure you, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone, don’t tell your left hand what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in secret, and your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you” (Matthew 6:1-4 NLT).
From that scripture, it is clear that hypocrites who do good deeds to be noticed by others shall have no reward from God. Their reward is the applause of men that they so cherish and for which they engage in their good deeds. What a pity! No applause of men can measure up to the reward of Heaven.
Jesus was not condemning public commendation of good deeds done by other persons. He was rather condemning the act of engaging in good deeds with the main motive of receiving a public commendation. I’ll rather that God rewards my secret good deeds than for me to do good deeds publicly and purposely to receive human praise. What about you?
2. Hypocrites make a public show of their praying and fasting for people to praise them. In fact, hypocrites make a show of every spiritual activity. Hypocrites miss the whole essence of prayer and fasting. Prayer and fasting is not for show-off but this is what hypocrites do. Their interest is not in the prayer and fasting but rather the need to make people know they are praying and fasting so that they can commend them. The teaching of Jesus contradicts this wrong behavior of hypocrites. Hear Jesus: “And now about prayer. When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I assure you, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly. Then your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you” (Matthew 6:5-6 NLT).
Some people have misinterpreted this teaching of Jesus to mean that praying publicly is wrong. No. Jesus wasn’t dealing with the practice of public praying but rather the motive. Proverbs 20:27 says, “The LORD’s searchlight penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive” (NLT). If the motive is wrong, the act becomes unacceptable. James 4:3 tells us that a wrong motive hinders answers to prayer.
In Matthew 6:16-17, Jesus again addressed this problem of hypocrisy with regard to prayer saying, “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, who try to look pale and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I assure you, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face” (NLT). Don’t pray and fast because you want people to notice you or commend you as a prayer warrior; you are just wasting your time.
Human beings should not be the focus of your prayer and fasting. Can they answer your prayers? Isn’t it God who answers prayers who should be the focus of your prayer and fasting? Receiving people’s commendation on your praying and fasting prowess will not fetch you anything eternal except to boost your ego – mere vanity. You’ll receive no reward from God since it is human adulation you want, and you’ve already received it. If you continue with ‘image-making’ you’ll receive nothing from God. You’re a hypocrite; you’re not a genuine child of God.
3. Hypocrites pretend to be godly whereas they are full of evil machinations. I like how David Roper described a hypocrite. He said, “A hypocrite is a person who’s outwardly correct and inwardly corrupt.”
The chief priests and the scribes were hypocrites. They were religious but were murderers at heart. They only pretended to be holy but they were everything but holy. They were full of evil machinations. They sought to lay hands on Jesus to kill him. Luke 20:20 says they “sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor” (NKJV).
Jesus was not killed by the non-religious; he was killed by the religious leaders of his day. Hypocrites have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. They pretend to be religious but their consciences are dead (1Timothy 4:2).
The hypocrites of Jesus’ day, teachers of religious law and Pharisees ignored the important things of the law but prided themselves in tithing for which Jesus scolded them: “How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest part of your income, but you ignore the important things of the law — justice, mercy, and faith. You should tithe, yes, but you should not leave undone the more important things. Blind guides! You strain your water so you won’t accidentally swallow a gnat; then you swallow a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24 NLT).
That Pharisee who went to the temple to pray, unlike the tax collector, boasted about his tithing and fasting: “I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess” (Luke 18:12 NKJV). He went home empty-handed. But the tax collector who humbled himself saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” went home justified. Hypocrites will rather trust in their works than come to God on His own terms. Fasting and tithing, as good and biblical as they are, can never be superior to the work of the cross. Nobody is saved by fasting and tithing; salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV). Everyone saved is “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24-25 NKJV). No one should magnify his works above the finished work of Christ.
Don’t be a hypocrite. If you want to be a Christian, be a true, genuine Christian. If you’re not ready to be a Christian, don’t pretend. It is sad that there are truly many hypocrites in the church today. It is even sadder that hypocrites have no part in the Kingdom of God neither will they allow others to enter the Kingdom of God. “Hypocrites! For you won’t let others enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and you won’t go in yourselves” (Matthew 23:13 NLT). The portion of hypocrites is the weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 24:51).
4. Hypocrites judge others but are worse than those they judge. They sit in judgment over others and condemn them as if they are saints. Hear what Jesus said: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5 NKJV).
Don’t concern yourself with the failings of others who probably are striving to overcome their weaknesses or failures but pretend that everything is alright with you spiritually. Exposing their failures to others will not make you clean before God. Why don’t you face your own spiritual condition and gain victory over the sins you are vulnerable to. God has not made you a judge over anyone.
Even if someone has fallen into sin, what the Bible says is not to criticize or condemn such a person. Galatians 6:1-5 says, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another Christian is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone in need, you are only fooling yourself. You are really a nobody. Be sure to do what you should, for then you will enjoy the personal satisfaction of having done your work well, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct” (NLT). That person who has fallen is part of the body of Christ that you also belong to as a child of God. And 1 Corinthians 12:26 says, “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad” (NLT).
So you should not be happy to be the mouthpiece of the devil to broadcast the failure of a brother or a sister. What is important is how to restore the erring person not how to further destroy the person so that such cannot come back to the Lord again. We must speak the truth but only in love (Ephesians 4:15).
Christian leaders are not above temptations. I’m sure they know this and every Christian should be praying for Christian leaders especially those leading them so that they will keep standing and not fall into sin. The devil is more after those who have consecrated themselves to God and His service – it’s a great achievement for satan if he can bring them down. Great caution must be exercised particularly in criticizing erring Christian leaders. Romans 14:4 says, “Who are you to condemn God’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should” (NLT).
Mature Christian leaders should handle biblically the sin and restoration of Christian leaders they have authority over. This is not suggesting cover-up but to ensure that the right thing is done, and the baby is not thrown away with the birth water which does not profit the Kingdom of God but rather satan’s kingdom.
5. Hypocrites are a fraud; they have an outward appearance that is different from the evil desires in their hearts. Whoever believes what the outward appearance of hypocrites is saying will be deceived because they are not what they pretend to be. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing (Mark 7:15).
Talking about the deceitful appearance of hypocrites represented by the Pharisees, Jesus said, “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. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. ‘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’” (Matthew 23:25-28 NKJV). Did you see that?
Looking at the outside of the cup, one would be deceived. Instead of purifying their hearts which was full of greed (extortion) and self-indulgence, the hypocrites were engaging in window dressing cleaning the outside of the cup. James 4:8 says, “Purify your hearts, you hypocrites” (NLT). There was no way whitewashing a tomb could cleanse the tomb of dead men’s bones and other uncleanness buried inside them. These hypocrites were merely avoiding the real issue.
In Matthew 22, anyone listening to the Pharisees’ disciples and the Herodians asking Jesus whether it was lawful to pay tax or not would have been deceived that they had the right motive but this was not so. They were sent by the Pharisees who wanted to entangle him in his talk. But the Bible says Jesus perceived the wickedness of his questioners, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites” (Matt 22:18 NKJV). That is the nature of hypocrites. They have a deceitful outward appearance. Be not deceived.
6. Hypocrites destroy others with their mouths. Prov 11:9 says, “The hypocrite with his mouth destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous will be delivered” (NKJV). Such persons may pretend to be friends but they are indeed enemies, ungodly, evil. They go all about speaking ill of others; they could expose information about them they’ve been privileged to get by virtue of their relationship with them. This could be out of envy or jealousy. In Psalm 28:3, David spoke about those who do evil — those who speak friendly words to their neighbors while planning evil in their hearts. This is sheer wickedness.
But as the latter part of Proverbs 11:9 says, knowledge shall deliver the righteous from such hypocrites. The New Living Translation renders the word knowledge as wise discernment. It says, “Wise discernment rescues the godly.” The Message says “the common sense of the godly preserves them.” That means once you have a neighbour who is a hypocrite, you will require knowledge, wise discernment, or common sense to know how to relate with him in order to safeguard, preserve, or deliver yourself. Hypocrites are dangerous neighbours! Job 36:13 says, “But the hypocrites in heart store up wrath; they do not cry for help when He binds them” (NKJV). The New Living Translation renders Job 36:13 thus: “For the godless are full of resentment. Even when he punishes them, they refuse to cry out to him for help” (NLT). Did you see how wicked they are? Not even the punishment of God will make them cry out to Him for help.
Conclusion: Be a Christian; don’t be a hypocrite in your relationship with God and others. Don’t pretend to be what or who you’re not. Paul says, “Let love be without hypocrisy” (Romans 12:9 NKJV). Be real. No stage playing. No pretence.
Hear what God says to the wicked, another word for hypocrites: “But God says to the wicked: Recite my laws no longer, and don’t pretend that you obey me. For you refuse my discipline and treat my laws like trash. When you see a thief, you help him, and you spend your time with adulterers. Your mouths are filled with wickedness, and your tongues are full of lies. You sit around and slander a brother — your own mother’s son. While you did all this, I remained silent, and you thought I didn’t care. But now I will rebuke you, listing all my charges against you. Repent, all of you who ignore me, or I will tear you apart, and no one will help you. But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me. If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God” (Psalm 50:16-23 NLT).
God wants His children to obey Him and not to pretend to be obeying Him. We may deceive human beings by our pretence but certainly not God before whom all things are naked and open (Hebrews 4:13).
God sees all hypocrites. He knows those who are not His, and He will deal with hypocrites accordingly. “And so the Lord says, ‘These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away. And their worship of me amounts to nothing more than human laws learned by rote. Because of this, I will do wonders among these hypocrites. I will show that human wisdom is foolish and even the most brilliant people lack understanding’” (Isaiah 29:12-14 NLT). Matthew 15:7-9 and Mark 7:6 also made reference to this scripture.
In Ezekiel 33:31, God told the prophet Ezekiel about the hypocrisy of the people who came to the prophet pretending to be sincere but had no intention of doing the Word of the Lord he would tell them. Don’t hear or read the Word of God but act contrary to His word. Don’t pretend that you’re doing the Word whereas you’re disobeying it. Don’t tolerate any form of hypocrisy in your life.
In Galatians 2:11-21, Paul had to deal with the hypocrisy of the Jews and put things straight so that the gentiles would no longer be compelled to live like the Jews.
Don’t be a hypocrite. The joy of the hypocrite is but for a moment (Job 20:5). The hope of the hypocrite shall perish (Job 8:13). Their company will be barren (Job 15:34). Be a Christian, not a hypocrite.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
T.O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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