(March 7, 1990)
Our granddaughter was two when she first saw me wearing a mask. It was part of a costume and covered my face. It wasn’t a frightening mask but she recoiled in horror. The familiar grandmother had disappeared and something she couldn’t understand had taken my place.
An ancient theatrical Greek might use the word “hypokrites” to explain the wearing of a mask. From it comes our negative word, “hypocrite”, generally used to describe someone who pretends to be something different (usually better) than they really are.
In Jesus’ day, there were at several kinds of religious hypocrites. One was the Pharisees who loudly proclaimed they were godly but their hearts were far from God. They wore a mask of their own goodness, covering up their selfish inner intent. Jesus often warned those who were close to Him, “Beware of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.” (Luke 12:1)
It’s little wonder most of us dislike hypocrisy -- God Himself hates it. He describes those who engage in it as people who have a destructive mouth (Proverbs 11:9), make their rules more important than the needs of people (Luke 13:15), are insensitive to God’s discipline (Job 36:13), show off their “piety” (Matthew 6:2,5,16) and are seemingly discerning about a lot of things but miss the real issues (Matthew 16:3). They also refuse others the privilege of hearing God’s truth (Matthew 23:13), are long on prayers and short on compassion (Matthew 23:14), eager to convert others to their error (Matthew 23:15), and are big on giving money but low on obedience to God, mercy, and faith (Matthew 23:23).
A hypocrite may look good on the outside but Jesus sees they have extortion and indulgence in their hearts (Matthew 23:25,27). They might give public honor to great men of God but stab them behind their back (Matthew 23:29). Some will even honor God with their lips but their heart is far from Him (Mark 7:6). A few get away with their hypocrisy in that most do not notice anything but their “goodness” (Luke 11:44), however they have nothing to give the hungry and thirsty souls of those who seek God (Isaiah 32:6). Hypocrites can even tell lies without it bothering their conscience (I Timothy 4:2). Quite a list. No wonder Jesus said “Woe to you hypocrites...” Christians are told “the wisdom from above is... WITHOUT HYPOCRISY.” I Peter 2:1,2 tells us to “lay aside all... hypocrisies.” Why? What happens to the hypocrite?
Combining some verses from Job, here is the picture: “The... joy of the hypocrite is but for a moment... for the congregation of hypocrites shall be desolate... so are the paths of all that forget God... for what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he has gained, when God takes away his soul? ... And the hypocrite’s hope shall perish.”
If genuine Christians fall into hypocrisy, God promises to chasten them. His intent is that we watch out for this sin and if it occurs, confess it, repent of it, and be honest with Him, others and ourselves.
Christians who refuse to cooperate with God in this confess/repent cure tend to transfer their guilt by judging others. Again Jesus warns: “You hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of your own eye; and then you shall see clearly to cast out the mote out of your brother’s eye” (Luke 6:42).
No one should let a hypocrite stand between themselves and God. If it is an erring Christian, guilty as he may be, that kind of hypocrite is closer to God than the one offended. However, if the unsaved Pharisee-type keeps anyone from God, what a shame -- that makes two people bound for a Christless eternity. Those who shy from God because of hypocrisy lose, either way.
Better still to realize, for whatever reasons, people will wear masks. The only person without any hypocrisy in Him, was the Lord Jesus Christ. And He is the only one that can help any of us take off our masks and allow Him to deal with what is really there.