Wednesday, October 10, 2012


by CWK

I. Hypocritical Hypocrites

The popular definition of "hypocrite" is: "doing one thing and saying another.” Hypocrisy is, then, a crossroads of words and deeds. This definition has worked its way into the unconscious American dictionary. "Saying one thing, doing another." This is a cliché, something you hear in the streets, again and again. 

This definition is both incorrect and dangerous.


1) It focuses our attention only on externals. 

It never deals with the heart. Actually, hypocrisy goes deeper than our deeds and our words. It is a condition of our hearts. A person could conceivably say one thing, and do the same thing: especially if that person is careful with what they say. Many people say and do all the right things, and yet remain hypocrites.

2) This definition leaves sincere people feeling guilty. 

Striving for the good, even telling others to strive for the good, is in itself good. Indeed, it would be better for some men to "say one thing, and do another." Most men live somewhat better than their worst principles, or their most outrageous boasts. Thank God. At the same time, all men live somewhat worse than their best principles. Any person who endeavors after a high and noble life will fall short, "We all fall short in many ways (James 3:2)." We have all come woefully short of who we should be, who we might have been, "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)." None of us can claim perfection, but we should still, "strive, seek, find, and not yield." We may not have perfection, but we should have a God-ward direction: a life bent toward goodness and God.

Samuel Johnson: Nothing is more unjust, however common, than to charge with hypocrisy him that expresses zeal for those virtues which he neglects to practice; since he may be sincerely convinced of the advantages of conquering his passions, without having yet obtained the victory…

Defining hypocrisy as, "Saying one thing and doing another,” is bound to leave people feeling guilty, whilst encouraging them make their words and deeds consistent. It drives them to spiff up their external behavior.  Defining hypocrisy thus drives people to hypocrisy.

3) This definition leaves self-righteous people gloating.

There's a reason this is the popular, we might say worldly, definition. This definition makes the worldly man feel comfortable in a state of superiority. This definition is flung from the rafters by righteous people onto the heads of bumblers below. It is used as a leveler, "You are no better than me." However, the moment I say that, I am claiming to be better than you. I am your judge. Thus, he who defines hypocrisy as saying one thing, doing another, is at the moment being a hypocrite.

Further, how, and from where this definition is hoisted onto the masses. It is often said by the irreligious, from rooftops, while they look down on poor, struggling Christians. There is an heir of self-righteousness, judgmentalism – aye, hypocrisy – in such a definition.

4) The definition is man-centered. 

This definition of hypocrisy does not mention God. It makes hypocrisy something that can be judged by men, with myself – a man – the judge. We are not even qualified to judge ourselves – don't we often feel confused by our own actions? Unsure of our motives? How, then, can we ascend up to heaven and pronounce justice on other men?

The other problem with the pop definition of hypocrisy: It makes the opinions of man the final standard. This instinct to prize the opinion of man is in reality the root of true hypocrisy. So,once again, this false definition of hypocrisy lead us into true hypocrisy.

II. True Hypocrites

Our word "hypocrite" comes from the Greek, hypokrites = originally, a theatrical actor.

This word is used frequently in Matthew: Mt. 6.2, 6, 16; 7.5; 15.7; 22.18; 23.4, etc.; 24.51). In the LXX, it is a term for the godless

To understand hypocrisy, we need to meditate on what a theater actor does. Fundamentally, an actor is ‘acting,’ i.e. not his/her true self; they are acting like someone they are not, playing a role. Thus, there is always an element of unreality. Also, an actor is there to entertain; an actor is focused on pleasing the human audience. Thus, actors are known for ostentation, showmanship.

The hypocrite is a person who lives without God, as if there were no God, for the praise of man. All the marks of hypocrisy flow from the God-less life: ostentation; dissonance between deed/heart; focus on external to the neglect of internal; focus on silly 'little things,' to the neglect of genuinely important things.
A hypocrite is, “a person whose conduct is not determined by God and is thus ‘godless' (Giesen, upokrisis)."
A hypocrite is one, “whose concerns with legal observance were not rooted in the love of God or in a commitment to justice (Lk. 11.42; cf. 10.25-37) (Joel Green, NICNT, Luke, 480).”

The correct definition of hypocrisy: living without God.
Thomas Fuller: A hypocrite is in himself both the archer and the mark, in all actions shooting at his own praise or profit.
By "without God," I mean 1) In independence from God, 2) outside His Grace, 3) as if God did not exist, 4) As if God was blind, and incapable of judging, 5) As if there were no God.
These religious show-offs are “actors” in that they aim to impress others, but at the same time their behavior demonstrates how far they are out of touch with God’s understanding of “righteousness” (France, NICNT, Matthew, 237).
(Yeast is a metaphor for that which has) penetrating power... corrupting influence... The Pharisaic mind-set is represented as a contaminant with potential to invade even the company of Jesus’ followers. Pushing the metaphor further, Jesus also builds on the secretive nature of yeast, the work of which is concealed at first, apparent later (Lk. 12.2-3)... Such yeast must be avoided, Jesus warns, because nothing will remain hidden... (‘will be manifest’ could mean)... First... the inner dispositions of people are evident in their outward behavior (cf. Lk. 8.17; 11.33-36; 6.43-45)....Second, and more at home in this co-text, the true constitution of a disciple will come to light in the experience of persecution – and, as is becoming more and more clear, persecution is the lot of those who are faithful to God in the midst of an evil generation (6.22-23, 27-28). Third, Jesus’ caution that all will be made manifest may be read as an eschatological warning: Conversation presumed to be secret now will become public then (Joel Green, NICNT, Luke, 480-481).
(Scribes and Pharisees) are accused of having missed the point of true religion especially by focusing on minutiae and externals instead of on the essentials of the sort of life God really desires. This tragically distorted perspective has become so entrenched that it has made them enemies of God’s true messengers (Mt. 23.29-36) (R.T. France, NICNT, Matthew, 869).”

So, the contradiction of hypocrisy is NOT between word and deed, but between external and internal. Actually, the  practice of hypocrites appears perfect, beautiful, spotless – it is their heart which is ugly (Mt. 23.27-28).

Thus, the biggest hypocrites probably look most righteous to us.

The antidote to hypocrisy? God-Centered-ness: LIVING BEFORE GOD.
Luke 12:1-3: In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees,which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.
Jesus is saying: you can't really live a life in secret. You can't, no matter how hard you try, escape the vision of God. God will bring every deed into judgment, including whatever is hidden. God is there; God sees. You can't hide from him. Jesus is saying LIVE BEFORE GOD because, whether you like it or not, you are living before God.
Charles Spurgeon, Hypocrisy:

Let us remember that we cannot do anything in secret even if we try. The all-seeing God, apprehended in the conscience, will be the death of hypocrisy. I cannot try to deceive when I know that God is looking at me. It is impossible for me to try to deceive others when I know that I am in the presence of the Most High, and that he is reading my thoughts and the secret purposes of my heart. The only way in which the hypocrite can play the hypocrite at all is by forgetting the existence of God.

 III. Hypocrisy Versus Christianity

A hypocrite is not someone who, “says one thing and does another.” This is defining hypocrisy by a contrast between word and deed, profession and practice. By this rule, the apostle Paul was a hypocrite of the first order, “For the good that I want to do, I don’t do, but the evil which I don’t want to do – this I do (Romans 7.19).” If we say something is evil, and then we do it, that does not prove we are hypocrites. It may prove we are Christians.

The Christian is one who is in the fight against sin. They are, as Hal Farnsworth put it, “free to struggle.” The Christian is one who is battling to conform their lives to goodness. They profess and cling to what is good. Alas, they still do what is evil from time to time. In their inmost being they delight in the law of God, but their external practice often falls short, “For I delight in the law of God in terms of the inner man, but I see another law at work in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members (Romans 7.22-23).” So, it is not hypocrisy to confess something as good with our mouths and hearts, and then do the very opposite.

If Christianity consists of loving good in our hearts, but often failing in external practice, then hypocrisy is loving evil in our hearts, and putting on a show of external practice. Hypocrisy means, literally, “play acting.” It is putting on an external show when our heart is ‘far from God.’ It is pretending. It is pretension. It is cleaning the outside of the cup spic and span, and then leaving the inside filthy and corrupt. Hypocrisy is an inconsistency between heart and deed; it is focusing on the externals to the neglect of the internal. It is a life of smoke and mirrors. It is a life of putting on more and more make up.

Charles Spurgeon: (Some say) "Oh, I am afraid that I am a hypocrite!” If you are, you are an odd sort of hypocrite, for I never knew of a hypocrite who was afraid that he was one.
The Ultimate ANTIDOTE to Hypocrisy is God-Centered-True-Christianity: 
Salvation by Grace Alone.

Hypocrites focus on PERFORMANCE. Christianity calls our attention to God's grace.

Eph. 2.4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ…

The ground of God’s love is God’s love and nothing in us. No matter how hypocritical a man may be – how full of dead men’s bones – God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy.

"There is no reason for God's love in any man, if there is none in you, you are not worse off than the best of men, for there is none in them (Spurgeon)."

IV. The Characteristics of Hypocrisy

“They make their phylacteries[2] broad, and enlarge the borders of their garments[3]... All their works they do to be seen by men (Mt. 23.4-5).”

“They appear outward beautiful, but are within full of dead bones, and of all uncleanness... (they) appear righteous to men, but within are full of hypocrisy and iniquity (Mt. 23.27-28).”
The Characteristics of Hypocrisy

1. Focusing on externals to neglect of internal.
2. Putting on a show.
3. Cleaning the outside of cup, and neglecting inside; putting a band-aid on a bullet wound.
4. Doing works as a public show ‘to be seen by men,’ i.e. practical atheism, as if humans were the only audience.
5. Living like image is everything; putting on costumes to impress.
6. Hunger for honorific titles.
7. Obsession with external items (in our day = clothing, tattoos, necklaces, bracelets, etc.) to show and identify piety.
8. Focus on minutiae of law-keeping, while neglecting true godly priorities.

Questions, For Self-Examination, to Diagnose Hypocrisy

1) Is our focus on external or internal?
2) Do we find ourselves ‘putting on a show’ around men, hoping they see us and take note of what good people we are?
3) Do we long for praise of God, or praise of men? Who is the real ‘audience’ of our lives? Are we more concerned what man thinks, or what God thinks?
4) Is there an inconsistency between who people think we are and who we actually are?
5) Are we more concerned with our image than with heart holiness?
6) Are we honest with people about our failings, faults, frailty?
7) Are we obsessed with external trappings of religiosity: looking good at Church, having the ‘right’ Bible, being a well-known teacher, looking like the perfect Christian family, wearing Christian apparel, trinkets (see Mt. 23.5-6)?
8) Are we more concerned with style, or substance?
9) When we pray, fast, give, sing, preach... who are we doing these things for? Who are we most concerned about? God? Man?
10) Would our lives bear out the reality, "God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:14).

V. The Characteristics of Sincerity

Looking Out Versus Looking UP, and WITHIN.

The hypocrite is always looking OUT, at other men; the godly man is looking UP, at God, and WITHIN, at HIMSELF. The godly man is aware of his failing because he is aware of God, and himself. Further, the godly man is more concerned about the sin in me than the sin in you.

We're quick to call other's hypocrites; we betray ourselves, and our self-righteousness, when we do so. We need to be aware just how powerful examples of hypocrisy are, and just how easily we ourselves fall into a lifestyle of hypocrisy. Jesus gives the warning about hypocrisy in Luke 12:1 to his disciples,

"...he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees,which is hypocrisy (Luke 12.1-3; cf. Mt. 23.1, "to his disciples")."

Jesus is concerned about hypocrites, but he is also concerned about his disciples. He warns us. Why?  Because we need it, and if we don’t heed it, we are in danger of hypocrisy. Consider your own danger of being hypocrites, the Lord Jesus is saying. It is amazing of hypocrisy can creep into the places we least expect it.

Thomas Shephard, the American puritan, wrote in his journal:
After my Wednesday sermon I saw the towering pride of my heart in all I did. As soon as I had done any public work my wicked heart would immediately look (to see) whether men praised me or no. Hereupon I saw my incurable vileness to make the opinions of passing men my rule and my reward in doing the work of the everlasting God. 

The Characteristics of Sincerity

1. Contra hiding sin, and pretending to be perfect, confessing sin honestly in high-definition (1 John 1.9). The most holy men often seem least holy because they are honest about their sin. 
2. More concerned about God’s opinion than man’s – doing acts of righteousness toward God, to be seen by Him (Mt. 23.5).
3. Loving God’s law in the heart, even if failing in practice (Romans 7.22-25).
4. Contra "keeping up appearances," focus on the inner, hidden person (Mt. 23.26).
5. Living before God, knowing that He sees and knows all – down to heart motives, and that on the judgment day he will bring every last deed into judgment, including ‘every hidden thing – whether good or evil (Eccl. 12.13-14).” In short, doing everything before the Lord, to the Lord, for His glory (1 Cor. 11.33).

VI. What About Religious Hypocrites?

Sincere followers of Christ need to be ready: Unbelievers are prone to point out the faults of Christians with such slanders as, "All these Christians are sinners just like me. Just a bunch of hypocrites." Several responses can/should be made.

1) The sins of the church prove one of the main teachings found within the Church, "We all fall short in many ways (James 3:2)." "The sins of the Church are one of the doctrines of the Church (Chesterton)." Consider: some of our greatest saints have been great sinners (David; Peter).
Carlyle said that men were mostly fools. Christianity, with a surer and more reverent realism, says that they are all fools. This doctrine is sometimes called the doctrine of original sin. It may also be described as the doctrine of the equality of men. But the essential point of it is merely this, that whatever primary and far-reaching moral dangers affect any man, affect all men. All men can be criminals, if tempted; all men can be heroes, if inspired (G.K. Chesteron, HereticsChapter XII, "Paganism and Mr. Lowes Dickinson").
So, you are pointing out that even the supposedly best men sin? We agree. In fact, Christians of all people have constantly reminded the world how wretchedly they fail. This sense of unworthiness is what qualifies them: Jesus came to seek and save the lost, the sinners, the bad people: "I came to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19.10);" "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief (1 Tim. 1.15)."

2) Related to response 1, Christians believe, not in themselves, but the grace of God in Christ, not in salvation by works, but salvation by God's grace.
There is no reason for God's love in any man, if there is none in you, you are not worse off than the best of men, for there is none in them; the grace and love of God can come as freely to you as they can to those that have long been seeking them, for "I am found of them that sought me not."- Charles Spurgeon, Grace Abounding.
3) Read Matthew 23. Jesus hated hypocrisy more than you: Jesus is the great hero attacking the fortress of hypocrisy across human history. No one said as many severe things to hypocrites as he did; indeed, no one was qualified as he was to say such things. He was sinless; he could see the human heart. He hated hypocrisy, on earth, and breathed fire against it; he will hate it hereafter, with hell-fire.

4) If the Church is so bad, why don't you join it, and show everyone how to live.

5) Are you really different than those you attack as hypocrites? Isn't you own life in discord? Don't you also fail to be who you would like to be? Are you, really, any better? Are you fit to judge people? Can you see down into the human heart? Isn't God the final judge? Also, Remember, "The same standard by which you judge others, that standard will be applied to you (Mt. 7:2)."

6) Hypocrisy is the opposite of true Christianity. It is indeed ugly: ugly, because it is false. Thus, we should not discard true religion, we should discard false religion.

It must be acknowledged that hypocritical professors of religion, they do abundance of mischief to souls in this respect: they make a fair and pompous show, a more than ordinary profession; they will always be aping of religion. And no wonder it appears unlovely, as ‘tis in them: it is because they have it not. Hypocritical professors of godliness do more hurt to religion than the most profligate, openly profane man. Men have their eyes upon them, to see what is in them, and they see that it is unlovely; and so they judge all religion to be. The most amiable things, when they are counterfeit, appear the most unlovely... Thus the shape of an ape and their actions are most deformed and ridiculous because they imitate man’s. Religion and knowledge in hypocrites is dead, and appears as deformed, dreadful and melancholy as the countenance of a dead man, whereas, perhaps when alive [was] very amiable. Those who are pretenders to religion, and nothing else, they spoil it and deform it; they make it look dreadful. They don’t know what it is, and can’t imitate it exactly. The only make a bugbear of it, to fright men from religion; make men think that religion consists very much in a melancholy disposition and sour temper; whereas would have a commanding loveliness if it were real and true. And even some that are godly, by their unwariness and imprudence, may do hurt in this regard, mistaking that to be religion in some things which is not so, and not practicing in all things according to pure and lovely Christianity. Whatever we see truly unlovely in any respect in persons, is not religion. (Jonathon Edwards, A Spiritual Understanding Of Divine Things, vol. 14 of works, pg. 92).

Appendix A: Mt. 23.1-39: Notes

1a. What Hypocrisy IS
It is…

v. 27-28 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

greek, hypokrites = taken from ACTOR: plays part i.e. not his/her true self; they are acting like someone they are not, playing a role.

Common definition of hypocrite: one who says one thing, but does another. However, the practice (THE DOING) of hypocrites appears beautiful: v. 27.

Hypocrisy = not so much: word v. deed BUT word v. heart. 

There's a DISHARMONY between: Outward v. Inward; External v. Internal; Appearance v. Reality

Mt. 15.7-9: You hypocrites… This people honors me with their lips; But their heart is far from me.

1b. Hypocrisy: What It’s Not

Not simply saying one thing, doing another. Recognizing something is good/right – then falling short.

Romans 7.19, 22: For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing… For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being.

2. How -- How do hypocrites act?

v. 5: They do all their deeds to be seen by men…calculated: religious showboater/showmanship.

Spurgeon: "When you see a man with a great deal of religion displayed in his shop window, you may depend upon it, he keeps a very small stock of it within."

3. Where -- Where is focus of hypocrite?

v. 6: they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues…

The hypocrite is NOT concerned about the Glory of God or Love of Neighbor. We say, "All roads lead to Rome. For the hypocrite, "All roads lead to SELF."

4. Who -- Who is the audience of hypocrite?

Hypocrite: audience = man. For godly man, audience = God.

v. 5ff: They do all their deeds to be seen by men

Appendix B: More Self-Examination Questions

1) APPEARANCES 1: Do we care more about appearances – or reality? Substance – or, style?

Are our interactions with others calculated to falsely impress? to get others to think highly of us? A godly man would rather others think too lowly of him than too highly.

2) APPEARANCES 2: Are we more concerned about doing right, or being right?

Missionary questionnaire: “Are you quick to admit you are wrong and ask forgiveness? Would those who know you best agree with your answer?”

Fathers, your job is not just to LOOK GOOD. Christian Leaders, what does it mean to be a Christian leader? Lead in repentance?

How do we respond when someone confronts us with sin in our lives? Anger? Thankfulness?

Spurgeon received sermon corrections year after year from an anonymous source. When he heard the man was moving to another town, he said, "I only wish had chance to thank him."

3) APPEARANCES 3: Am I genuine with others? About my sins? My weaknesses? My struggles? What kind of prayer requests am I offering?

4) APEARANCES 4: Do we deal with sin in relationships? Real change, and forgiveness. Or (because we don't want to offend anyone) just gloss it over in sinful peace?

4) Why? Why do we give ...Time? Money? So others THINK we're great? Or, for the Love for God?
Mt. 23.5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.
Augustine: Moral character is assessed not by what a man knows but by what he loves.

Edwards: God does not accept the hand without the heart.

5) Do I focus on the heart? Or, the show?

From Tedd Tripp, on parenting, Shepherding a Child’s Heart: 
There are many bribes and punishments that are attempts to manipulate behavior without touching the heart. "First clean the inside of the cup" Jesus said. Outward behavior is not the problem; it is the heart… The world has nowhere else to go except to (violent) constraint and (superficial) change. We can go to the God who changes the heart.


[1] Phylacteries were small leather boxes which housed important scriptures from the law. They were worn on the forehead and arm in a literal application of Dt. 6.8, 11.18. The boxes or straps that kept them in place could be made more ‘showy’ by making them larger (see France, Matthew, 862).
[2] The ‘borders’ of garments were tassels worn on Jewish clothing in obedience to Num. 15.38-39; Dt. 22.12). They were a visual aid to prayer.

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