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A. The Bible Definition: The phrase “without hypocrisy” in Romans 12:9 is translated from a single compound word in the Greek ( ”anupokritos”, an-oo-pok’-ree-tos) which means without dissimulation, unfeigned, or sincere. It is the negative form of the Greek noun “hupokrisis“, translated in the N.T. as hypocrisy. In Luke 12:1 Jesus called hypocrisy, “the leaven of the Pharisees” and warned his disciples against being influenced by it. The hypocrite was a real issue in Jesus’ ministry. He used the word “hypocrite” 15 times in Matthew in his denunciation of the Pharisee and scribes.
1. The word hypocrite (hupokrites) literally meant “one who answers” or “plays a part“. It was the custom of Greek and Roman actors to speak while wearing large masks in order to augment the force of their voice in the theater. Thus the word came to used to describe an actor, or one who played a part in a play. (If we were ancient Greeks we might say, “there are a lot of hypocrites in Hollywood”.)
a. Nelson’s Bible Dictionary says that a hypocrite is: In the Greek theater, a hypocrite was one who wore a mask and played a part on the stage, imitating the speech, mannerisms, and conduct of the character portrayed. Unger says, “The hypocrite is a double person, natural and artificial. The first he keeps to himself, and the other he puts on, as he does his clothes, to make his appearance before men.
b. Through the amplification of their voice and the appearance of their mask the Greek actor would make the audience believe that he was someone else on stage. It was all a show. This concept is clearly behind Jesus’ definition of the hypocrite in Mark 7:6-7 – He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
B. Hypocrisy is Foolish. It is a denial of the Omniscient God. When a person attempts to fool others by appearing to be something on the outside that he is not on the inside, who does he think he is fooling? The hypocrite openly denies that God sees all. Luke 12:1-3 – In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. WHY? … For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops. BY GOD, WHO SEES ALL. Heb 4:13 – 3 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. We may be able to fool others, but we cannot fool God.
1. When Jesus accepted the invitation of a Pharisee, his fellow Pharisees immediately judged that Jesus was a sinner because he failed to wash his hands before he ate. Luke 11:39-40 – 39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness. 40 Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also?
C. Hypocrisy is Selfish. Why do we pretend to be something we are not? To serve our own interests. Matt 23:5-7 – But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. 6 They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues, 7 greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ The hypocrite almost always has a selfish agenda. He is not interested in what is true or right, or the other person to whom he is being disingenuous. (coaches that pretend to like you and be your friend in order to get the calls to go their way, until their team begins to lose the game.)
D. Hypocrisy is Infectious. When one person decides to live a lie and deny his own conscience it can embolden others to do the same. Paul confronted Peter on this issue. Gal 2:11-13 – 1 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.
1. The hypocritical leader can do enormous spiritual damage in at least two ways.
- If he is accepted in the group as a leader, and his hypocrisy is never exposed, he lowers the standard for all. The focus turns outward and others are judged by the same hypocritical standards. Matt 23:15- 5 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.
- If he is accepted as a leader, and then his hypocrisy is exposed, his good influence is reversed. Jesus warned his disciples about the failed leadership of the Pharisees. Matt 23:2-4 – “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. 4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
2. Many historians contend that such figures as Julius Caesar and Napoleon Bonaparte were successful leaders because those who followed them believed that they were actually interested in them. They would do everything that they asked their troops to do, if necessary.
- Leaders who constantly call on others to sacrifice and work, but are unwilling to do it themselves are, not only ineffective, but they are hypocrites.
E. Hypocrisy is Heartless. Go back to Jesus’ words in Mark 7:6 – 6 He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.
1. The contrast between the lips and the heart reflect the ability of the hypocrite to comply outwardly (by saying the right things) without making inward changes (heart is far from me.) Obedience is then defined as outward conformity alone, and others are judged by this incomplete standard. A person is deemed “faithful” if he attends assemblies regularly, without reference to his attitude or action at other times.
2. The hypocrite learns to make arbitrary distinctions in what God requires of himself and others. Matt 23:23-24 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. 24 Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Jesus analogy of straining at a gnat is in reference to a common practice when the Pharisees would pour their water through sieve to strain out any insects that were too small to see with the naked eye. This they did while swallowing a camel, the largest animal in Palestine!
3. We are constantly challenged to look deeper than the surface, especially as we judge ourselves. Matthew 23:25-27 – 25 “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. 26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. 27 “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.
II. How can I avoid being a hypocrite? These verses speak to me. I must fight the tendency to play a part rather than live by the truth. Let me suggest three steps to avoid hypocrisy:
A. Step One: Dig down deep and acknowledge that I am a sinner. As Paul said in the first verses of Romans 12 “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly,” (Rom 12:3)
1. The Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18: The Pharisee’s prayer was evidence that he did not get it. It never sank in deeply to him that he, too, was a sinner. He prayed…”‘God, I thank you that I’m not like other people. Thieves, rogues, adulterers, even like this tax collector. He claimed a perfection that he simply did not have. He was like other men. He was a hypocrite. But the tax collector standing far off would not even look up to heaven though was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’
2. Bill Vaughan, the late syndicated columnist, once said that “In the game of life, it’s a good idea to have a few early losses, which relieves you of the pressure of trying to maintain an undefeated season.” Isn’t that what hypocrisy is often about? – trying to give the impression to other people that we live lives which are undefeated?
B. Step 2: Focus on service rather than status. We can never overcome the temptation to be a hypocrite until we overcome the fleshly tendency to live for ourselves instead of others.
C. Step 3 – spend more time on the inside than the outside of our lives – How much time do we spend dealing with the outside of our lives? (the impression we make, the clothes, makeup, hair, cars, houses) How much time do we spend on the inside? (Prayer, Bible study, reflection, confession)