The Marks Of A Hypocrite 1
Updated: Jan 24
Chan Gin Kai
HYPOCRITE... mention the word, and it sends a shudder down our spines. We hate hypocrites, but somehow, the world is not short of them.
I hated it when I had to face some hypocrites just not too long ago. But Jesus had to face hypocrites again and again throughout his ministry.
The Fangs Behind The Smile
When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. (Luke 11:37)
After a long day of healing the sick, casting out demons, rebutting accusations and preaching to the people, someone invited Jesus to his house to eat. A good meal with friends and a nice conversation over wine would have been a great treat after a long days work.
But, it was a Pharisee who invited Jesus, and we know what that means... Jesus accepted it nonetheless, and the attack came fast and furious.
It was not an invitation offered by someone who loved him, but someone who loathed him. This was not a rest, but a test... a trick and not a treat. There were fangs behind the smile.
I’ll rather have someone confront me in my face than someone who stabs me behind my back. But the world is full of cowards who lack the guts and the honour to settle problems face to face. They know they can’t win through reason and so they attempt it through trickery. They manipulate others to do the dirty work for them.
Dark Hearts Behind White Robes
But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal. Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But now as for what is inside you – be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you. Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.” (Luke 11:38-42)
The meal had barely started, but the attack quickly came.
What the Pharisee said wasn’t recorded, but we can sense from the passage his judgmental attitude when Jesus didn’t wash his hands before the meal. It wasn’t about a lack of hygiene, but Jesus’ non-observance of a highly technical ceremonial washing that pious Jews did.
Jesus didn’t mince his words when he rebuked the Pharisee’s hypocrisy. He pointed out how the Pharisee was so much more concerned about the external than the internal. They did the trivial things that make them look holy, but ignored the things that truly matter. Jesus questioned if they truly cared for people, was concerned about justice, and really loved God.
We often wonder why hypocrites do the things they do. Some perhaps do the trivial (but impressive looking) things because the things that really matter are so much harder. The titles, ceremonies and noble sounding deeds are done as much to bluff themselves as it is to deceive others. They do the trivial to assuage their conscience, telling themselves they’re ok. And they ride on this image, milking it for what it’s worth to impress others.
Zero Substance Behind The Style
“Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces. (Luke 11:43)
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for desiring to be honoured. They were more interested in the privileges that their position gave them than the people they were supposed to serve.
Hypocrites are more engrossed by who they appear to be than who they really are. They pretend to be what they are not, to try to win the admiration they crave. They tell people they have resources or capabilities when they have neither. They play the good cop and lead people on with promises. They find someone braver to deliver the bad news when they fail to deliver, and then join others in slamming the bad cop. They won’t admit their faults and manipulatively try to pin it on others.
Hypocrites try so hard to put up a façade that they become convinced by their own deceit. Indeed, they’ll have to believe their own lies in order not to be troubled by their conscience.
THE STAB BEHIND THE BACK
“Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.” (Luke 11:44)
Like “unmarked graves”, hypocrites defile people who unknowingly cross their paths. We can’t go near hypocrites without getting burnt. Because they’re so self-serving, the welfare of others is the last thing on their mind. They have no qualms about using people to serve their purpose. Sometimes, those who seek to help them are the ones who get hurt the most badly. Go too near to them and you may find a knife sticking out from your back. There will always be collateral damage.
So how do we handle hypocrites? We stay far away from them. There is no sense trying to fight them because we’ll only get ourselves dirty. And there is no need either because they will eventually implode. In the end, their hypocrisy will be exposed, and their deceit revealed to all.
Did you encounter hypocrites recently too? This may not sound like much of an encouragement, but Jesus went through worse. It’s true that knowledge doesn’t lessen our pain. But it helps to know that because Jesus went through it too, he understands. He sees our hurts, and he is right beside us, every step of the way.
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Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. In church, he serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry. He describes himself as "just a sinner who wants to get right with God". Gin Kai joined the Central Christian Church in 1988.