A businessman’s office wall was covered with award plaques and framed documents. On the wall was a diploma from the Harvard Business School, a “National Salesman of the Year” award, and a letter from the President of the United States. A visitor was impressed by his honors and asked, “How did you manage to accomplish so much in such a short time?” “It really wasn’t that hard,” the man replied. “I have a sign-printing business.”
Hypocrisy is trying to impress others by pretending to be something that we’re not. Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites 14 times in the book of Matthew alone. They performed their religious duties “to be seen” by men (Matt. 6:1). “To be seen” in Greek is theathemai, which is where we get our word “theater.” Jesus was saying that a hypocrite is an actor who plays a role. The actors on the Greek stage performed in the theater to be seen by an audience. Their reward for their performance was the applause they received from the spectators.
The hypocritical Pharisees were merely religious actors, playing the role of a righteous person in the “theater” of street corners, synagogues, and the temple. They longed for the praise of men, which was the reason they performed so many righteous deeds in public. When they received compliments and applause from their admiring audience, Jesus said, “they have received their reward in full” (Matt. 6:2).
The Pharisees serve as a warning to not become actors, who do the right things but with the wrong motives. We are hypocrites if we say that we believe God’s Word but live in a way that doesn’t line up. The antidote for hypocrisy is to live with a “sincere heart” (Heb. 10:22) and “love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5). The apostle Paul told us there is only one audience we need to please: “For am I seeking the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ” (Gal. 1:10)
Check your heart. Keep doing what’s right, and do it to please God.
Have you read about the strange customs of the Pharisees? Click on Who were the Pharisees? Be sure to read the 26 Questions, which helps to identify Modern-Day Phariseeism.
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