What is a hypocrite?
In Greek, the word hypocrite translates to actor. So a hypocrite is someone who puts on a show. Wears a mask.
In Jesus’ time, a hypocrite on stage used a variety of masks, putting one on, then taking it off and going on to a different mask.
All this was done for the praise of the audience.
Throughout Jesus’ three years of ministry, he equated Pharisaical religion to hypocrisy.
Let’s see what He says about prayer.
“And when you pray you must not be like the hypocrites for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners that they may be seen by others. Truly I say to you they have received their reward but when you pray go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father Who is in secret and your Father Who sees in secret will reward you. And when you pray do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:5-8).
Then Jesus teaches us how to pray with the Lord’s prayer.
When he stated, “Truly I say to you they have received their reward,” he’s referring to the praise of men. That’s what a hypocrite does. He acts for the attention and praise of men, even in prayer. Even in his spiritual walk he puts on a show.
True prayer drives us into deeper communion with God. It develops and expands our relationship with God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.
We can fool others by putting on a show, being religious, but God is never fooled. He knows the true motivation of our hearts.
A couple of months ago, my wife and I along with two good friends, Brad and Dana, vacationed together in Las Vegas; the “Christian” version of Las Vegas.
We stayed in a hotel, sunbathed and took in a few shows. On the last night of our stay we attended a magic show. I had purchased the absolute cheapest tickets online to see Kriss Angel.
We had to climb a ladder to get to our seats in the top back row.
Everyone made fun of me for buying the cheap seats. Then a couple of ushers told us that it was our lucky day. They had four great seats we could have for an extra tip.
So I handed over twenty bucks and received four tickets. As we settled in we realized we had the best seats in the house. I turned to my wife and Dana and said, “You know what this means, right?”
They didn’t know.
So I said, “We’re going to be a part of the show.”
Immediately the ladies both grew anxious. So naturally, Brad and I teased them. Throughout the show we’d remind them what was coming. I know, nice guys.
Anyway, as the show neared the end, nothing had happened. Then all of a sudden the magician, Kriss Angel, disappeared from the stage. The spotlight turned on us and there he sat, right next to Brad!
Our wives settled down and we all laughed at the magic.
At the beginning of the show a guy in a black hoodie sat next to Brad. Then he left for the bathroom and returned, but it was Kriss Angel behind the hoodie then.
No magic. Simple. Intentional. Misdirection.
What is a hypocrite trying to do?
Fake his spiritual life. Play it out in front of other people for praise. Fool people by simple misdirection.
In my personal opinion in the twenty-two years that I have shared God’s word, the greatest question a Christian could ever ask himself is: Why do I do the things I do?
What motivates me? Am I consumed by God or by the praise of men?
You can’t hide this stuff from God. He already knows what you need before you pray.
He knows what resides in your heart.
Resolve to consider your heart.
God, we all stray. Circumstances impact our motivation, and our hearts naturally flow toward selfishness. We know Your Holy Spirit can renew us. So I pray for every man who reads this. Purify his heart, Lord. Help him to be motivated to know you deeply. Amen.