Don’t you hate hypocrisy? So do I. Jesus Christ rarely displayed wrath, but when He did, it was against hypocrisy. Obviously, God hates hypocritical pretense too, yet not one of us can say we have never been guilty.
The word comes from the Greek theater. It literally means “to answer toward” which the actors did as they dialoged with one another. After a while they were called “hypocrites” and the word has come to mean anyone who pretends to be something that they are not.
There are at least three kinds of religious hypocrisy. One was displayed by the Pharisees in the New Testament and continues to show up in the lives of many “religious” people today. These pretend to have a special “in” relationship with God but in fact do not.
This hypocrisy is not always easy to detect. The Pharisees appeared “clean” on the outside and considered themselves righteous, piously thanking God that they were not like other people. But Jesus, who knew their hearts, said they were full of sin on the inside. They may have appeared to be the “religious elite” of their day but they did not deceive God. Furthermore, they rejected Jesus Christ as “the way, the truth, the life...” the only way to the Father. (John 14:6)
Jesus warned His followers to beware of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, specifically sinful pride that expresses itself in an “I am better than other people” attitude. So a second type of hypocrisy flows from an attitude of superiority. It involves patting one’s self on the back for what God as done - taking the glory instead - and then playing a game of trying to conceal sin and failure by “putting the best foot forward” somehow thinking this will prove the superiority of the Christian experience.
Instead of proving the value of being a Christian, such pretense is a major stumbling block to others. Phoniness and trying to hide sinful attitudes and actions convinces no one. All they see is what the hypocrite is trying to hide.
A third kind of hypocrisy happens often but is not usually thought of as pretense. The Bible says “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature, old things have passed away and all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Sometimes people claim to have new life but deny the expression of it, especially when in the presence of people who may be uninterested or hostile to spiritual matters. Instead, they act as if nothing happened to them. Christians are commanded to act like what we ARE, not like what the world wants us to be. In fact, Romans 12:2 (Phillips version) says, “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold...” If a person has genuinely been made clean and then returns to old sinful habits, that is just as much an hypocrisy as being full of sin and trying to fake spirituality.
Hypocrisy is sin. It is sin because it is against the very “trueness” of the One who made us in His image. Because it is sin, hypocrisy also holds people in bondage. Jesus Christ said, “Whoever commits sin is the servant of sin.” And hypocrisy affects others. Jesus called it leaven or yeast because it tends to promote the same kind of phoney behavior in those exposed to it.
What is God’s answer for hypocritical pretense? Obviously it is honesty. The “religious” person needs to acknowledge his sham and unbelief as sin, confess that he cannot save himself and turn to Christ.
The Christian who is overcome with spiritual pride needs to “remember from what God has saved him” and confess his sin, acknowledging that without the grace of God he would have nothing to boast about. He needs to drop the pretense and trust God to be glorified through his honesty.
The Christian who fears man instead of God needs to confess his unbelief to God, and ask for power to live out his spiritual convictions.
God offers salvation from the contradiction of hypocrisy and any other sin through faith in His Son. As we honestly admit what is really true of us, He uses that truth to set us free from the bondage of pride, fear, and lies.