What is hypocrisy really? Has the original meaning and use of the term been depreciated? Why are people hypocrites? We will discuss and answer these three questions on hypocrisy by utilizing verses from Matthew 23, psychological studies done on the subject, multiple dictionaries, and is also freely to be discussed in posts as well. This is going to be a 3 day look into Hypocrisy and what it is and what it’s all about. Maybe we can change perspectives and open the eyes and soften the hearts of those who charge the term solely to Christians and the belief of Christianity.
What is Hypocrisy?
Hypocrisy defined in the Merriam Webster Dictionary is as such; (1) a feigning to be what one is not or to believe what one does not; especially : the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion. (2) an act or instance of hypocrisy. The origin of the term is stated as such; Middle English ypocrisie, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin hypocrisis, from Greek hypokrisis act of playing a part on the stage, hypocrisy, from hypokrinesthai to answer, act on the stage, from hypo- + krinein to decide.
Here is the Biblical definition of Hypocrisy; sourced from Matthew 23 and the Strong’s Concordance – Hebrew Greek Lexicon; coming from the Greek hypokritēs and is a masculine noun meaning (1) one who answers, or an interpreter. (2) an actor, stage player. (3) a dissembler, pretender, or hypocrite. This word was only used 20 times in the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke only.
Hypocrisy is not simply failing to practice those virtues that one preaches, as Samuel Johnson made this point when he wrote about the misuse of the charge of “hypocrisy” in Rambler No. 14:
“…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, as a man may be confident of the advantages of a voyage, or a journey, without having courage or industry to undertake it, and may honestly recommend to others, those attempts which he neglects himself… “
Basically what Samuel Johnson was attempting to explain was it’s unjust to accuse one of Hypocrisy if he/she express an eager desire for the virtues or ideals which he/she neglects to practice – or in other words live up to – because he/she does know the advantages of conquering this eager desire but just hasn’t obtained the victory or accomplishment of it. Then he gives an example of a man who is confident in the advantage of a voyage, or journey, but just doesn’t have, or learned, the courage or industry to undertake it, so he recommends it to others, to compensate what he has neglected to conquer in himself. This is also now unjustly termed being a Honest Hypocrite which will be explained below.
Scientifically and Socially speaking there are two types of “Non-Hypocrites” which are as follows;
Tautological Rationalizers are not hypocrites because their beliefs and perceptions of reality conform to support their own desires and imperfections. They can not be hypocrites because their beliefs and perceptions of reality are rationalizations for their actions and are without objectivity. When a state of hypocrisy arises, tautological rationalizers conform their beliefs around their actions to eliminate contradiction, rather than conforming their actions around their beliefs.
Devoted Believers’ actions never contradict their beliefs. They are completely devoted to what they believe in. Their beliefs and perceptions of reality are not rationalizations for their own actions. Their beliefs and perceptions of reality are the result of either objective logic, blind faith, or a combination of the two. Regardless of the source of their beliefs, their beliefs and actions are without contradiction.
There are also four types of Hypocrites which are as follows;
Honest External hypocrites: Their stated beliefs contradict their actions. However, their stated beliefs are consistent with their actual internal beliefs. Therefore they are also honest internal hypocrites. They have strong convictions but do not always follow through.
Dishonest External hypocrites: Their stated beliefs contradict their actions and their stated beliefs are not consistent with their actual beliefs. They often have weak convictions, and it is possible for them to be non-hypocritical on an internal level.
Honest internal hypocrites: Their internal beliefs contradict their actions. Their internal beliefs remain constant despite their contradicting actions. They are honest with themselves, and strive not to conform their beliefs around their own desires, actions, or imperfections.
Dishonest internal hypocrites: stated beliefs are consistent with actions, but actual internal beliefs are not. They are often people pleasers with weak internal convictions. (all studies in this second section are courtesy of Lonnie L.)
Biblicaly there are seven reasons, or seven woes, to why Jesus called the Pharisees Hypocrites and what constituted them to be termed so, such is as follows;
Seeking the Approval of Men rather than God; (Matthew 23:5). Everything was done to attract the approval of others. The approval of God took a back seat. The Pharisees would dress distinctively in garb that would symbolize their righteousness. It was more important that they appeared righteous to others than whether they really were righteous or not. In today’s world they would be the ones to watch the opinion polls and then try to do and say those things which would gain them the most respect. They would turn true righteousness on its ear, ridicule those who seek to live by faith, and heap congratulations to one another for their wonderful “insight” and grandiosely good deeds.
They Blocked Entrance Into The Kingdom; (Matthew 23:13) By prescribing their own doctrines, traditions and creeds, the Pharisees were actually keeping others from truly accepting God’s rule in their own lives. They had composed their own standards of right and wrong. Much like today, where we are witnessing a casting off of New Testament moral, ethical, and doctrinal standards in favor of the standards of men and the new age culture. How seldom do men and women today appeal to the only sound standard of right and wrong, that their grandfather’s father’s implemented and passed down through their genealogy; which is the word of God.
They Convert People to the Wrong Teachings; (Matthew 23:15). A person’s enthusiasm and passion are not the only clues as to whether he is right with God or not. While we may be sure that a person who is neglectful and disinterested is not right in the sight of God, it is also true that there are people extremely dedicated to false systems, teachings, social, religious, ethical, and otherwise. It’s not that it is wrong to travel and teach. In fact, that is a right. But what is taught must be correct, not taken out of context, and not used to fuel selfish desire and sinful nature, lest we make the same mistakes the Pharisees did.
They Lie; (Matthew 23:16). The Pharisees had all sorts of tricks to make it appear that they were telling the truth when they in fact were not. They had determined that the gold in the temple was more important than the temple itself, so they would “swear by the temple” and lie, but they would not “swear by the gold of the temple” and lie, because the gold was more precious. Jesus then points out in verses 17-21 that it is always wrong to lie.
They Neglect Important Matters; (Matthew 23:23). The Pharisees were not much on having justice, mercy, and faithfulness towards God or towards people of the faith. You would find them going through even their spice cabinets to be sure they gave one tenth of everything, as the Law had required a tenth to tithe, but then neglecting developing their own hearts and minds so that their motives might be pure when doing so. Jesus says they should have done both.
They are Hypocrites in General; (Matthew 23:26). This is pretty much a summation of what kind of people the Pharisees had become. They did what they thought was necessary to convince others that they were holy and righteous. This might also translate into those members of the church today who go through whatever motions they must to satisfy what they think are the bare minimum requirements of faith to be ‘saved’, so that others looking upon them will think pleasing God is at least somewhat important to them. Such a corrupt and carnal attitude was unacceptable to Christ then, and certainly still is today.
They Reject The Prophets Before Them; (Matthew 23:34). Jesus referred to how their fathers had rejected and killed the prophets of the Old Testament verse 31. The Pharisees during His time honored these same prophets by dressing the tombs, honoring them, and stating that they would not have killed these prophets if they were there, verses 29b and 30, but Jesus said that they were just like their fathers before them in verses 33 and 34 by them persecuting and flogging those prophets (and soon Him) that were being sent to the temple (such as Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, etc). Even after Jesus’ death and resurrection prophets and apostles such as James, Peter, John, etc.. were persecuted and martyred by not only the Romans but those, like the Pharisees, that had set up their own standards of right and wrong, or went back to the ritual Jewish faith. Truth is sometimes not received very well, and it wasn’t during Jesus’ day, and still isn’t today. The outcome of such a rejection of Truth? “ See, your house is left to you desolate.” verse 38.
The chapter ends with His lament over Jerusalem; ““O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Tomorrow we will be going over the depreciation, over the last few decades, of the use and meaning of the term Hypocrite. Stay Tuned and Thanks for stopping by.
May God Bless your day!