as the hypocrites do, like the hypocrites.
Nobody likes hypocrites, and not to put too fine a point on it, Jesus in particular called out the sin of hypocrisy in others. No sin was as sternly denounced by Jesus.
In Hebrew, the term actually meant ‘godless.’ To be a hypocrite was to be without God, that is to be dishonest/untruthful. In Greek, hypocrisy meant play acting at religious observance. The exterior of the person did not reflect their interior. To be a hypocrite was to be all show, no go.
In Luke 12:1-2, Jesus warned his disciples against following the practices of Pharisees who engaged in hypocrisy.
Meanwhile, the crowds grew until thousands were milling about and stepping on each other. Jesus turned first to his disciples and warned them, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees—their hypocrisy. The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all.
The bottom line on hypocrisy is that it is not a determination pointing to a person being intrinsically evil, but rather that they have either:
- Failed to realize the nature of God’s call, or
- Are failing to properly live out the call they have.
Religious hypocrites don’t really get it and make a mistake by interpreting their actions as true religion versus having a complete metanoia – a complete change in one’s life, from heart to mind, soul, spirit, and outward; all coming from spiritual conversion.
Some practical examples as Jesus points out today: Fasting and appearing as if one is suffering. Why not bother if it is just for show? Giving to be seen as giving. Why bother if it is just play acting? Why pray if it is only to hear oneself mumbling words made meaningless because they are not meant?
Jesus’ points about already being repaid pales in comparison to His warning from Luke 12 – if you are only doing it for show, unthinking, without inner change, play acting – everybody is going to find out, it will be revealed, you won’t be able to keep it a secret.
Lent calls us to change, to a genuine metanoia. The Lenten call presupposes the fact that we are all play acting at different levels. Perhaps it is because we lack a complete understanding of what God is calling us to. Perhaps our religious practice has become habit rather that challenge. Perhaps we are doing things because mom or dad said so. Maybe, just maybe, we are comfortable and just do not want to change.
Now is the time to have our hearts convicted, to convert and to change. We are called to rend our hearts, to break our hearts for failures and to learn a lesson from that heartbreak – a lesson that pushes us to be genuine, to live God’s call fully and completely, to be changed throughout.
St. Paul nails it: do not receive the grace of God in vain. Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We have to work at truly being God’s vision of us this very minute, now, and stop any play acting we are doing. God’s grace stands ready to get us there – we must not take that opportunity in vain.
Why we do what we do is key to right perspective and true religion, to ending hypocrisy. This is what we will focus on throughout the Lenten journey we are sharing together. Understanding gained in this process and study will help us to reset our lives, right set our expectations, and get to the metanoia that will bring us to being genuine (not hypocritic) bearers and livers of Jesus’s gospel.