The Sin Of Hypocrisy
Jesus said, "Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy." (Luke 12:1) In Classical Greek the term here translated "hypocrisy" was used to denote the acting of players on a stage. The ancient Grecian actors used large masks to cover their faces and employed devices to enlarge their voices. It isn't hard to see how "hypocrisy" in time came to mean pretense. A hypocrite is really a pretender. He pretends to be something he is not. Hypocrisy is a sin and no sin is more severely condemned in the Scriptures. Christ reversed some of His most scathing words of rebuke for hypocrites. The Pharisees were especially guilty of this sin. They were in their day the world's foremost pretenders. Hypocrisy was a leaven which they worked among the people. Therefore, Christ warned His disciples to beware of their hypocrisy.
If the sin of hypocrisy abounded in the time of Christ, it also has an evil and widespread influence upon society in our day. Two thousands years have not changed the picture very much. There are many kinds of hypocrites in the world today. They are found in politics, business, and the various circles of society. But the worst kind of hypocrite is the one who exercises pretense in the realm of religion.
1. There are a number of ways to be a hypocrite in religion. One way is to worship God with lips but not the heart. To the Pharisees Jesus said, "Well hath Esias Prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoured, me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." (Mark 7:6) The public display of religion is another form of hypocrisy. Some people cannot do anything in religion without a press agent. When the Pharisees prayed they stood on the corners of the streets so they could be seen from all directions. For pretense they made long prayers. When they gave alms to the poor they had trumpets sounded before them so they could have praise from men. Those who are interested in serving God aright will not seek to make such a display of their religion. They know that the light that shines in then, glorifies God and not themselves.
The faultfinder is a hypocrite. He pretends to be concerned about the mote in his brother's eye while there is a beam in his own. To such men Christ said, "Thou hypocrite, first cast out [the beam] of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." (Matt. 7:5) Pretending to be devoutly religious when one is not is hypocrisy. This was a characteristic of the Pharisees. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity" (Matt. 23:27, 28) One who tells others what to do but refuses to practice what he preaches is a hypocrite. (Matt. 23:3)
2. There are many dangers involved in religious hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is a form of lying. It is lying by pretense. When Ananias and Sapphira pretended to give all but actually held back a part of what they obtained from selling a possession, Peter said they lied to God. (Acts 5:4) But aside from the evil involved in the sin itself, hypocrisy also has other attendant evils. For instance, hypocrisy hinders one's spiritual development. Peter said, Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby." (1 Peter 2:1,2) Hypocrisy is a stumbling block to others. Some who claim to be Christians live such wicked lives that they keep men from obeying the gospel and discourage those who are trying to live righteous lives. Hypocrites in the church sometimes cause weak members to quit the church and to cease their efforts to live for God. (1 Cor. 10:32)
When the world sees those who claim to be followers of Christ doing all the things that the world does, they are led to think that Christianity is a farce. Yet, it is not uncommon for "Christians" to curse, lie, cheat, defraud, commit adultery, get drunk appear in public indecently exposed, etc. Such conduct gives the enemies of Christ a grand opportunity to speak reproachfully of Him and His people. Hypocrisy works its evil like leaven. (Luke12: 1) It influences others to act hypocritically. When Peter acted with dissimulation at Antioch, he caused other Jewish Christians, including Barnabas, to follow his example.
3. Christ's warning against hypocrisy is plain, "Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy." This sin is so prevalent and insidious that its leavening influence may seize us unawares. It is needful for us to be on guard constantly lest we be found playing the hypocrite. Those who are guilty of hypocrisy are admonished to lay it aside. (1 Peter 2:1) We are also taught to use our influence to keep others from hypocrisy. Paul found it necessary to rebuke Peter and the others who dissembled with him because "they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel." (Gal. 2:14) Had either Ananias or his wife exercised restraint their sin would very likely have been averted.
Hypocrisy is not to be tolerated in the church. The removal of Ananias and Sapphira by death shows God's displeasure with hypocrisy. Those who will not conform to the standard of conduct laid down by the Lord in the New Testament should not be in fellowship with the church. "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us." (2 Thess. 3:6) No sin is more clearly in violation of the apostles' doctrine than hypocrisy. Therefore, the hypocrite that will not turn from his hypocrisy must be withdrawn from by the Lord's people. The hypocrite cannot have fellowship with those who walk in the light.
The Lord expects His people to be honest with God, with themselves, and with all men. He said, "Let love be without dissimulation (hypocrisy, ASV). Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good." (Rom. 12:9) And again, "Provide things honest in the sight of all men." (Rom, 12:17) Hypocrisy has no place in the life of a Christian. The hypocrite is not a follower of Christ regardless of what professions he may make. "Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy."
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