by Mark Aites
There was a time when hypocrisy was used to refer to a stage actor acting out a part. In New Testament writings its’ use was a descriptive term for those who appeared to be something they were not. Webster defines the modern usage, “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.”
The concept of acting out a part can readily be seen in the professed religious leaders of the first century. “Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew ). “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1).
Three times, in Matthew chapter six, Jesus referred to these religious leaders as “hypocrites”. He referred to them as such in the “charitable deeds”, their long drawn out prayers on the street corners, and even altering their appearance suggesting they were fasting. In Matthew chapter twenty-three, some seven times our Lord plainly called these fake men of God hypocrites! They were playing a part, just as an actor does in a play.
Perhaps the strongest words Jesus used of hypocrites is found in an illustration He was using concerning His own second coming. “Blessed is that servant whom his Master, when He comes, will find so doing. Assuredly, I say to you that He will make him ruler over all his goods. But if that evil servant says in his heart, “My Master is delaying His coming,’ and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards, the Master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for Him and at an hour that he is not aware of and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:46-51).
Our Lord is clearly not pleased with those who profess to be His servants and are not sincere or genuine in heart. Just as He could easily spot those who “played the part,” He will just as easily expose those in the Judgment who have chosen a similar path.