“The hypocrite’s crime is that he bears false witness against himself.” (Author unknown). The hypocrite deceives himself. He may deceive someone else by his grand importance, but the root tragedy is he deceives himself. The murderer knows he is a sinner. The adulterer knows he is a sinner. But, the hypocrite does not see himself as a sinner. He fools himself. He has such a convincing act that he believes his own lie. This deception is a grave danger. Hypocrisy is doubly dangerous for people who are around the hypocrite and critically dangerous to the hypocrite himself.
The word hypocrisy means one who answers back. It came to be used to describe actors in ancient times because they used special devices to enhance their voices. They spoke behind a mask. The idea of a hypocrite developed from playing a part, to speak the dialogue that belongs to that part. It is the opposite of being genuine and sincere. Hypocrisy produces all kinds of evil. Jesus warned about the leaven of the Pharisees (Luke 12:1-3). Just a little bit of leaven will permeate the whole lump. Hypocrisy is used as an example of influence. Jesus warned it corrupts all speech and life. Hypocrisy always fails because of the very nature of God’s dealing with man. There is nothing that is covered that is not going to be revealed. Hypocrisy deals with the thing that is done behind the mask so that the mask and the face behind it are different, but all the things that are masked are going to be unmasked. The things covered will be revealed. The secret things are not really a secret. Hypocrisy is dangerous. Deception is a threat to all. It is easy to be taken by the hypocrites’ act.
Like other bitter roots of the heart hypocrisy also produces sinful fruit. In Matthew 23 Jesus condemns the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. Pharisees were people who knew the law. They were not sincere in their works. They had ulterior motives. They were simply out to impress people (Matt. 23:6-7).
The first fruit of hypocrisy Jesus points out is that the hypocrite would not allow free rule of God in their own hearts and he stand in the way of others (Matt. 23:13). How many have been turned from being Christians by the obvious hypocrite? The man who turns away is not excused. He may say, “At least I am not a hypocrite I make no claim to do what is right.” The man who turns will be lost because he doesn’t try to do what is right. Yet, what a grievous charge to make of the hypocrite. He stands in the way of other people and keeps them from letting God rule in their hearts.
Second, Jesus charges the hypocrite with devouring widows’ houses (Matt. 23:14). Who did this? It was the Pharisees: the strictest sect among the Jews, the most elite among Jewish society, the best students of the law. Yet what were they doing? Devouring widows’ houses. That is, they took advantage of them. They also made long prayer. That is a strange comparison. They devour widows’ houses while praying. See what grows out of hypocrisy? Do you think they recognized the awfulness of what they had done?
Third, Jesus said the hypocrite is busy working (Matt. 23:15). He is usually a hard worker. He works hard to make a convert but then teaches the convert to be like himself. Therefore he makes the convert worse than he was before. At least before, the convert was lost. Now he has become pious and self righteous and is still lost.
Fourth, these people were careful about the smallest things (Matt. 23:23). They tithed the spice plants in their houses. They counted the leaves and set aside each tenth leaf. Jesus doesn’t condemn that. He says that they ought to have done the little things. But the hypocrite, while being critical of these little things paid no attention to the most important things. Little attention was given to the principles like justice, mercy and faith. The hypocrisy of the hypocrite distorted his values.
Fifth, we really get a glimpse of the values hypocrisy breeds. Hypocrites are more concerned with looks than heart (Matt. 23:25). If you had to be concerned about a cup, which would you prefer to have clean, the outside or inside? If you could choose only one, it would be more important to have the inside clean. The Pharisees had their values backwards. According to the values of hypocrisy the outside of the cup is a consideration that takes precedence.
Sixth, the Pharisees were just like a grave that appears beautiful outwardly but within is full of dead men’s bones (Matt. 23:27-28). Hypocrisy is not just bad manners or poor social graces. It is a malignant spirit that produces all kinds of iniquity. Notice hypocrites and iniquity go together. I can hear them piously saying, “We would not have mistreated the prophets of ancient years like our fathers did. We would not have mistreated Isaiah or Daniel.” But, how did they treat Jesus? How did they treat other prophets that came their way (Mat. 23:34)?
Christianity does not grow in a heart filled with hypocrisy. So what is the remedy? Just reverse the evil fruits. Let the will of God rule freely in your heart. Pure religion is helping the fatherless and widows. You can’t be a hypocrite and give freely of yourself to widows and orphans (James 1:27). Prayer with a sincere heart will help us see our own needs and the needs of others. Help others see the good news of the gospel. Lead them to Christ not self. Recognize that even the small things are important while practicing justice, mercy, and faith. Pay attention to our outward man but recognize that who we are outwardly is a picture of who we are inwardly. The life of one is seen in the other. Sincerity will be seen by how we treat others, especially those who bring us the gospel.
Do all you can to bring others to Christ. Help them grow. Be faithful and diligent in obedience to the law of God. Be filled with spiritual mindedness. Pay attention to your heart. Pay attention to the speck in your own eye. Try hard to see yourself as God sees you. Correct yourself and do good. That is how a Christian and Christianity grows.