In the early days of acting a hypocrite was considered a good term. It described an actor who could put on many different faces or masks. Actors in the Greek theatre wore masks depicting an emotion. The masks were large, often twice the size of an actor’s face, so they could be easily seen. The Jews used the word hypocrite to describe a liar, deceiver, two-faced, or one who hid his true nature behind a mask.

How would you define the word hypocrite? To be a hypocrite is to believe one thing and behave contrary to your beliefs. If someone called you a hypocrite, how would that make you feel? Christians often get labeled as hypocrites. Christians are hypocrites, but so are non-Christians. Non-Christians believe people should behave a certain way based on various values, and Christians believe you should behave in a way that mimics Christ.

In the Gospels, Jesus accuses the Pharisees of hypocrisy because they used brassy actions that attracted attention, but covered their true heart intentions. They would pretend to do what was really important to God, but Jesus since He was God had x-ray vision into they hearts.

The religious are often the most hypocritical. The Pharisees were outwardly very religious people. The Pharisees controlled the synagogues, its teachings, and were regarded as the chief interpreters of Jewish legalism. They not only believed the Law, they expanded it to include 400-plus rules, and insisted everyone else follow too. Jesus used hypocrite to describe the Pharisees and pronounced seven woes on them for their hypocrisy.

What are the various faces of a hypocrite? And do you wear masks that fit?

First, hypocrites add to the message of the gospel [Matthew 23:13]. The message of the gospel is a simple message: you are rebellious sinner separated from God, but Jesus came to redeem sinful man through the cross, and only those who respond through faith and repentance will be redeemed forever. Though it is a simple message it is not easy. To make the application of the gospel message more than “repent and believe” by adding church attendance, tithing, baptism or any other work as prerequisites for salvation is duplicitous to the work of Christ.

Second, hypocrites use God to manipulate other people [14-15]. Hypocrites commonly devour people for selfish reasons. Hypocrites will injure people with their words and cover with a pious action. Some in the name of God have used and abused their listeners. That is blasphemous. Hypocrites are good at winning debates and proselytizing people to their own opinions. Jesus says the missionary efforts of hypocrites pave the way to hell. Instead of converting people to Christ, hypocrite’s covert people to their system that do not leave room for a Messiah.

Third, hypocrites seek to squeeze out of commitments [16-22]. Hypocrites are skilled liars. They know the loopholes or lingo to get out of commitments. They will make religious oaths with religious loopholes. Jesus says that all oaths are related to God and therefore binding [cf. Matthew 5:33-37]. Evasive oaths are not oath, but lies.

Some Christians say that they are committed to God because they read their Bibles everyday, pray before their meals, go to church faithfully, and give to good causes, but one glance at their life and you would see a huge disconnect. You can commit to all good things making yourself look godly [i.e. reading the Word, prayer, and serving the church], but if your commitments are not rooted in Christ they are self-centered facades.

Fourth, hypocrites are masters at making little things big and big things little [23-24]. Jesus condemns the Pharisees for not understanding God’s Law. The Law required that everything produced should be tithed to the Temple. The silly act that Jesus describes of counting every kernel of spice to make sure that it amounted to exactly 10 percent, no more and no less. Jesus was not criticizing tithing, but was pointing out that true righteousness results in godly behavior—not just an appearance of godliness.

How is it easier to focus on doing the little things—those less personal—than the big ones? Doing small duties are easy, but delving your heart, soul and mind into following Christ takes discipline, time and sacrifice. What did Jesus emphasize in His example of straining at gnats but swallowing a camel? There is great danger in focusing on the things that don’t matter, while ignoring the things that do. For example, some come to church on Sundays to worship God, but Monday through Saturday you are living separate from God. Sunday for them is a show, rather than serious occasion to worship God with His people that transform the rest of their workweek.

Fifth, hypocrites are concerned more about the outside than the inside [23:25-32]. Jesus casts two disturbing pictures of the Pharisees emphasize the outer man over the inner man. The first example is of keeping the outside of a vessel clean without taking the time to clean the inside [25-26]. Would you eat off a plate that was not fully clean, but caked with yesterday’s casserole? Or would you drink from a cup with three-day old milk marks inside? Of course not, that is just gross. That is exactly Jesus’ point. You are clean on the outside, but inside you are unclean.

The second example is decorating the outside of tombs. You can spend all your time on beautifying things that really don’t matter. People spend big bucks on making our faces look better, teeth whiter, clothes brighter, hair shinier, and body thinner. This might make you look good for a time, but in light of eternity it does not matter A beautiful tombstone does not change the condition of the decaying body within. Neither does a mask of Christian righteousness make a person who is dead to Christ inside into a true Christian [cf. Matthew 6:1-3; 15:1-11; 22:18-22]. What you do if you knew no one would see reveals who you really are and whom you really live for!

How do hypocrites stop playing with masks and start being authentic in Christ?

First, realize hell has hypocrites [33]. Hypocrisy reveals your hearts intents. The difficult truth is, the more hypocrisy you have in your heart the harder it is to change. Followers of Christ hate hypocrisy in their hearts and are committed to change in Christ. If a hypocrite continues in hypocrisy there is a good chance he is not a follower of Christ. If there is no change hell is on your horizon.

Second, repent and open yourself to God [34-36]. The response of the Pharisee should have been, “You are the Messiah, forgive us our sins.” However, they would not respond and repent, rather they recoiled to their hardheartedness. Jesus, the Messenger of the gospel, prophesies about other messengers He will send [i.e. apostles, disciples and followers] who will confront the religious system with their wholehearted commitment to their Lord Christ Jesus. Yet just as they rejected and killed Jesus, they will reject and kill His messengers. 1 Peter 2:22-25 says,

“He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

Third, restore intimacy with your Savior [37-39]. God is a restorer of His people. This is a great promise. When repentance is authentic, restoration of intimacy with God follows. As 1 Peter 2:1-3 says,

“So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

Fourth, remember servanthood is your calling [23:11-12]. Not serving yourself, but serving your Master, Christ. To preface Jesus’ woeful concerns towards hypocrisy He says, “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

In conclusion, do not criticize the Pharisee for his hypocrisy for Jesus shares this message not only to them, but also to you. You could be a Pharisee too. Remove your masks. Repent; allow God to restore, and remember your position under God is a humble servant. Pharisees have infected the Christian community. Subtly. But Jesus thinks the heart condition of hypocrites is a serious matter to consider.

unleashing forgiveness

I had just turned 16. My parents were away for 4th of July weekend and I had my step-dads truck all to myself. He had the coolest looking Mitsubishi Montero. Looking back, the man who gave oversaw my drivers test earlier that March was more into the 4×4 gadgets inside than how I was driving outside. I passed. I do not recall having permission to take out Mike’s truck that weekend, but it was the 4th of July, and my friends were banking on me taking them to the fireworks on the Rib Mountain in the Montero. So with the moon-roof down, music cranked and the 4-wheel on we head up the mountain in the Montero.  All was good and we had a great night.

The next day I had to work. Since we got in late the night before and I had to work so early I decided I would take the Montero [I usually took the bus or road my bike]. No harm, right? As I was pulling into the mall-parking ramp my foot got stuck on the accelerator and the car rammed into the concrete ramp. Cars were lining up and honking behind me. I put a $5000.00 dent into the truck. My sin had just found me out. My parents called that night and ask how I was doing? I did not mention a thing. When my parents got home a few days later my step-dad opened the garage viewed him damaged Montero and was furious. That 4th of July I had to learn a valuable lesson about forgiveness.

Forgiveness is unnatural. We want to hold onto the hurt and anger, payback, seek revenge and retribution. Have you ever been there? Have you been on the offended end of hurt, blame, finger pointing, or collateral damage? Do you really want to live like this? Who are you having a difficult time forgiving?

what is forgiveness?

It is a decision to treat an offender as if the offense never happened at all.

why should I forgive?

Peter asks this very question to Jesus and you sense he is struggling with unforgiveness [Matthew 18:21], since earlier Jesus had taught about what to do if a person offends you [18:15-20]. In Jesus’ day Jewish rabbi’s taught that if you forgave someone three times you were really forgiven, but super spiritual Peter trumps that number to seven. Jesus is going to answer the haughty question using a simple story [18:22-35].

Unforgiveness is foolish [Matthew 18:22-27]. God is like the king who forgives the servants $10 million dollars debt. In those days filing bankruptcy was not an option. If you could not pay, off to the slave market you went. What a forgiving king. God says there are endless reasons to forgive. However, we have endless excuses for not forgiving someone who has offended us. Sin is always irrational, full of excuses and deceitful. I have heard people say, “The hurt is too big.” We believe that there is no possible way to forgive ____ for doing ____ because the wound is deep, fresh and still bleeding. I have heard others say, “Time will heal it,“ “They are bound to do it again.” “I cannot forgive until I forget.” We humans have a hard time forgetting. The problem is forgiveness is the process God uses to help us forget.

Unforgiveness is like a cancerous tumor. The longer it is left unchecked the harder it is to remove, and the messier and more complicated it becomes. Unforgiveness is controlling. It is like a dog leash and its master is the one who has offended you. Unforgiveness will continue to become a weight that becomes heavier and heavier until you deal with it. When we harbor unforgiveness we are saying, “Okay, you control my life. I’m the puppet. You have the strings.” I have lived that way before, for years I was leashed to unforgiveness to my divorced parents who I blamed for my anger and sin issues.

Unforgiveness is dangerous [vs.28-30]. If we decide not to forgive it can destroy people. Think about it: the forgiving servant was forgiven $10 million dollars, but he was bent out of shape over someone who owed him $11 dollars. Ridiculous!? The same is true for one who is a child of God. If Christ has forgiven you of all your sins and you cannot forgive another for one sin, ridiculous. Unforgiveness will destroy you and others.

Unforgiveness is Godless [v.31-33]. Question: How much has God forgiven you? What does it say about God’s forgiveness if we cannot forgive an offender? It slaps God in the face. It says His forgiveness does not cut it. Unforgiveness is anti-God.

Unforgiveness is torturous [v.34-35]. If we do not deal with forgiveness it will deal with me. Ultimately it will destroy me and separate me from the Forgiver.

how do I know if I am forgiving?

Going back to Peters original question do you notice Jesus’ response? [v.22] “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Jesus is not saying you should forgive 77 times, but forgiveness is over and over again. Forgiveness is to be a habit. Now I am not going to minimize how bad someone has hurt you, but do you realize what forgiveness God has given you? Forgiveness starts and ends with God. I learn forgiveness from Him, and I give forgiveness in Him. How do I know if I am a forgiving person?

First, I am not deceived by my pride. You are quick to admit what you did was wrong and seek forgiveness, or you are quick to offer forgiveness by not harboring unforgiveness. Unforgiveness is not your mother’s fault, your friend’s fault, rather own up to it yourself. Second, I am not defensive or protective. You do not have to pay back, pick that fight, or rebel to prove you are right. Instead you leave that up to God [Romans 12:19]. Third, I am motivated by Christ’s forgiveness, so I forgive. It is freeing to allow God to fight the battles for you and to rely upon His forgiveness to forgive others.

Forgiveness is unnatural, but necessary. As followers of Christ forgiveness should come more naturally. Unleash unforgiveness before you are lynched by it.