Among the most searing words Jesus Christ spoke during His earthly ministry were those addressed to and against hypocrites. In Matthew 6:2, 5, 16 He condemned three instances and forms of hypocrisy: 1) doing charitable acts and announcing them to other people, 2) praying publicly to show one’s piety to other men, and 3) fasting and making it obvious to others in order to gain their approval and praise.
In Matthew 7:1-5 Jesus condemned those who judged others for their sins while being blind to their own sins. In particular Jesus condemned the Pharisees, Sadduccees and scribes or teachers of the law among the Jews of His day.
In Matthew 16:1-4 Jesus condemned as hypocrites a group of these Jewish leaders who asked Him for a sign that He was indeed the prophesied Messiah. Actually Jesus had done many miraculous deeds in their midst, but they did not believe these and felt these were not enough signs; they wanted more.
Matthew 23 contains Jesus’ several direct condemnations of the scribes and Pharisees for what they were doing to be seen by men, their desire to be exalted by and among men (Verses 1-2). In Verses 13-36 Jesus pronounced woe on the scribes and Pharisees for their blindness and failure to acknowledge their own failings and their lack of understanding of what really matters to God.
But why the divine indignation?
When we come right down to it, God primarily desires “truth in the inward parts (Psalm 51:6) – in our hearts and minds. God wants us to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). [See: True Worship.]
As God, Jesus searches the minds and hearts of everyone (Revelation 2:23). He knows the secrets of our hearts (Psalm 44:21). A man after God’s own heart, Israel’s King David affirmed that God knows our every thought even before we express it in words or actions (Psalm 139:1-4; compare with Isaiah 66:18). And what does God see in our hearts? Isaiah 59:7 declares that man’s thoughts are often “thoughts of iniquity” – sin, or disobedience to God’s law (1 John 3:4, KJV). [See: The Problem of Sin, Is There Ever Any Good in Man? and A Law-abiding Universe – But Man!]
Jesus stressed the importance of our being clean in our inside – our hearts and minds – first. He told the scribes and Pharisees: “You cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, [so] that the inside of them may be clean also (Matthew 23:25-26). He compared them to “Whitewashed tombs which appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones.”
The Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “hypocrisy” as “a pretending to be what one is not, and to feel what one does not feel; esp. a pretense of virtue, piety, etc.” It is basically the discrepancy between one’s outer appearance or show, and what’s really going on in one’s mind and heart. Hypocrisy, then, is essentially living a lie!
Hypocrisy is thus the opposite of God’s nature as a God of truth – a God who does not lie, cannot lie, and will not ever lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18). In contrast Jesus called God’s chief enemy, Satan the devil, the “father” of all lies and liars (John 8:44).
Among the things God hates the most – abominations to Him – are a “false witness” and a “lying tongue” (Proverbs 6:16-17, 19). He will condemn to the lake of fire or the “second death” all unrepentant liars and “Whoever Loves and Practices a Lie” (Revelation 21:8; 22:15). Jesus also declared that the portion of hypocrites is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:51) – prior to their being cast into the unextinguished fire of hell and their everlasting condemnation.
Therefore, it behooves all who want to inherit everlasting life in God’s eternal kingdom and Paradise to seek to “do God’s commandments” and keep oneself clean from sorcery, sexual immorality, idolatry and, yes, lies and hypocrisy (Revelation 22:14-15). [See: God’s Spirit and Obedience, Being and Doing, and Saved for Good Works.]
Pedro R. Meléndez, Jr.