“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
- – Matthew 6:1-5
“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, or whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.
– Mark 9:38-41
- a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.
- a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements.
– Dictionary.com, Definitions of Hypocrite
Recently, Wally Fry, of Truth in Palmyra, wrote a blog post about 5 reasons for going to church and 5 excuses people use for not going. It was delightful, and it made you think, in both regards.
Of course, one of the excuses was that the church is full of hypocrites. Wally’s response was to ‘hypothetically’ tell them to come to church anyway, we have room for one more. I laughed even though I have heard that before, but it got me to thinking, aren’t we all hypocrites at one time or another?
Let’s look at the ‘definition(s)’ given by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. While he mentions hypocrite twice, they refer to the same thing. Whether giving to the church, to the poor, or praying, do so quietly, solemnly, and with respect, not with a flourish as the hypocrites do. I tried to go on a mission trip anonymously and was shot down. “No, you will go forward and have hands placed upon you in a commissioning ceremony.” My thought was that I did not want to act like a hypocrite. I just wanted to help. I was in a church a long time ago that had lay people do the liturgy – do all the prayers except for the pastoral prayer, read the Scriptures, do the announcements, etc. One person ruined it for all when they took on the role of liturgist as a dramatic performance. Besides the service lasting an extra 15 minutes due to the enumerable flourishes in speech and hand gestures and pauses for dramatic effect, it was instantly cringe-worthy among most who heard and saw it. It seemed more a mockery of prayer and the Scriptures than what, possibly, was a heart-felt method of keeping everyone’s interest. Yet, who was the one benefiting from the interest, the liturgist or God?
The Scripture from Mark is a rather odd one that can be confusing. First, too many people today want a checklist from God saying “Do this, and this, and this…” The ‘relationship’ thing is just too much for their busy lives. So, someone reads these few verses and thinks, “I can be rewarded for getting the preacher a cup of coffee? I can do this! Heaven, here I come!” But note from the Matthew passage that the hypocrites got their rewards, and it wasn’t Heaven.
But beyond the reward, John (who was a very ambitious, and might I say arrogant, follower of Jesus – to the point of getting the other disciples upset) complains about people outside the inner circle casting out demons in Jesus’ name. A few things on this point, doing these miracles required the power of the Holy Spirit. While this is immediately after the Transfiguration where Jesus is seen in His glory, the Holy Spirit had not yet entered the believers to stay. That does not mean that the Holy Spirit could not work through the people on the fringe to glorify God. Lastly, Jesus’ comeback comment to John is priceless. He essentially said that these people can’t be talking bad about us and calling upon the power of Jesus at the same time. A good logical end to the argument.
About John’s statement to Jesus in Mark 9:38, Charles Spurgeon wrote, “John did it, I daresay, in love to his Master, but not in love of his Master. He did it, no doubt, with the desire to honor his Master, but he did not honor his Master by what he did.” And regarding the problem of Jesus having to deal with His thick-headed (sometimes) disciples, Spurgeon added, “Thus, after having conversed with Moses and Elijah, the Master had to talk with these childish men who had fallen out among themselves and fallen out with other people.” These ‘childish’ men would spread the Word of God and establish the church, but only after they had stumbled and screwed up even further.
What does this mean to us? The definitions of hypocrite can apply to just about anyone, and the watchers that wait for us to screw up are out there. Yes, you are very Saintly or a very sneaky Christian if someone has not called you a hypocrite.
I have been called a hypocrite, by innuendo, because I enjoy watching a baseball game. Major League Baseball has players who chew tobacco. That is not good for your health, thus all baseball is tainted by the widespread use of tobacco products, and all Christian fans of baseball are hypocrites because they enjoy a tainted sport.
American football is even worse. The game is violent. People get hurt. Some of the injuries scar the players for life. And the professional administration has been accused of a cover-up. Thus, you are an instant hypocrite once you watch a game.
Your next-door neighbor does not like spitting on the sidewalk. You are mowing the lawn when suddenly a bug flies into your mouth. Without thinking, you spit. Ahhh! Hypocrite!
You say that these examples are ridiculous. They have nothing to do with the rules God handed down. You argue that following the rules to the letter, as a legalist, is not the focus of Jesus’ teaching. A personal relationship with Jesus is the entirety of the Gospel message.
But you are a Christian with that type of understanding being viewed by legalists inside the church and non-believers outside the church. They create their own set of rules that they feel comfortable with. Satan promises to keep them in the fog, and thus never tempts them to cross those lines anyway. They are, then, perfect in their own eyes. They have set their rules. They have kept their rules. They are consistent, but we are not consistent with the rules that God has set. Romans 7 bit Paul, and it bites us. We do what we do not want to do. We can do it right 999 times, but ‘they’ will be watching that one other time and we are now the hypocrite. As the number 1 definition states, we did something that belies our assertion of virtue, moral, or religious belief.
Can we overcome our stumbles in life in their eyes? Only with God’s help and by consistently showing love to those same people who are trying to tattoo ‘hypocrite’ on our foreheads. And maybe, just maybe, when you show up next week to attend church with all the other ‘hypocrites’, you can realize that we are all just sinners saved by Grace. Yep. You should never finish Bible reading at the end of Romans 7. Read Romans 8, also.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.