Hypocrisy

Reading Assignment:        Matthew 6:1-18

Did you understand what you read?

  1. Why should we do good deeds?
  2. List three ways we should not pray.
  3. List four topics our prayers should cover.
  4. Why is it important to forgive others?
  5. How do hypocrites fast? Why?

Discussion:

            We get our word hypocrite from the Greek language. It originally meant playing a part on a stage; the same as our modern day word actor. Today the word hypocrite means pretending to be something you are not. We can divide hypocritical people into three categories. The following will explain each type.

            The first type is the people whose heart is not in it. They go along with you for politeness sake, but they would rather be doing something else. These people include dear Aunt Betsy who is telling you how cute your children are while thinking to herself, "Why can't they keep those little hoodlums under control?" Solomon gives the example of a miser who invites you over for a meal, but wishes you wouldn't eat so much (Proverbs 23:6-8). We too can be hypocritical. James warns us, in James 1:6-8, not to ask God for something while knowing in our hearts that we won't receive it. To do so would be hypocritical: we said one thing, but we mean something else.

            People who purposely deceive others are the second type of hypocrite. These people are the malicious who cover up there intent to catch us unawares (Proverbs 26:24-26). An example would be the Jew's various attempts to entrap Jesus, such as in Matthew 22:15-22. Judas Iscariot is an outstanding example of an intentional hypocrite (John 12:4-6).

            The final type is the hypocrites who deceive themselves. Jesus takes the Jews to task in Matthew 23:1-36 for claiming to live righteously but living sinfully. However, the Jews haven't cornered the market on hypocrisy. Paul warns us in I Timothy 4:1-5 that there would come a time when some would depart from the truth; speaking lies in hypocrisy. In our reading assignment, Jesus is addressing these hypocrites - the self-righteous.

            Doing good so that others can see and praise your good work is a form of hypocrisy. How often do we tell others of our deeds, hoping for a word of praise and a pat on our backs? Try a little experiment this week to test your spiritual motives. Do something good for another and then tell no one. It sounds easy, but it is more difficult than you may think. The next time you have someone over for a meal, think about Luke 14:12-14 and ask yourself why did you invite these people to dinner. Have you ever had the truly poor over to your house? The Lord knows there are plenty of poor around us. What excuse can you give?

            When praying, Jesus instructs us to do it privately. We may not stand on the street corners and pray as the Jews did, but we may pray to be seen of men in other ways. Using long phrases and flowery language can be a mean of impressing people instead of God. Using repetitions to extend our prayers is another form of hypocrisy. Look once again at the sample prayer Jesus gave his disciples. The statements are short and to the point. Many topics are covered in a few words without any repetition. While we should not use this prayer word for word, it should guide us in determining how to properly pray to God. Finally, when we pray we must make certain that we mean what we say. If we ask God to forgive us, then we must be willing to forgive our brethren (Matthew 18:21-35).

            Fasting is another service to God that the Jews turned into a mean of receiving praise from men. Doing without food for a period of time is a way to center our attention on God (Isaiah 58:3-9). We can be hypocritical about fasting by trying to garner sympathy from the people around us. We are also hypocritical if we spend our time doing evil when we are suppose to be thinking about God. Few Christians practice fasting these days, but it is something that was done by the early Christians (I Corinthians 7:5). When done for the right reasons and with the right attitude, it can draw us closer to God.

Discussion:

  1. Why did people fast in Jesus' time? Should we practice fasting today?
  2. Using Matthew 23:1-26, contrast what the Jews said they were doing with what they actually were doing.
  3. What can we do to keep from deceiving ourselves?