A little Bible study in-progress…

“Take heed your kindness not to do before men, to be seen by them, and if not–reward ye have not from your Father who [is] in the heavens; whenever, therefore, thou mayst do kindness, thou mayst not sound a trumpet before thee as the hypocrites do, in the synagogues, and in the streets, that they may have glory from men; verily I say to you–they have their reward! But thou, doing kindness, let not they left hand know what they right hand doth, that thy kindness may be in secret, and thy Father who is seeing in secret Himself shall reward thee manifestly.

“And when thou mayest pray, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites, because they love in the synagogues, and in the corners of broad places–standing–to pray, that they may be seen of men; verily I say to you, that they have their reward. But thou, when thou mayest pray, go into thy chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father who [is] in secret, and thy Father who is seeing in secret, shall reward thee manifestly.” Matt 6: 1-6

Jesus, here, repeatedly refers to the hypocrite. Who is the hypocrite? Jesus gives examples here of those who proclaim their good works and their prayers in public so that they may have accolade.

The opposite of the hypocrite is one who is real. When someone is real, everyone knows it. Jesus stated as much when He said the Father would reward manifestly.

That must be most infuriating for a hypocrite. That must spawn all kinds of envy and strife, jealousy and turmoil. They work so hard to be recognized by others, yet those they see as inferior are, instead, recognized.

In the example Jesus gave, the hypocrite is constantly saying, “Look at me! Look what I’ve done! Look how good I am!” And yet, Jesus explicitly says not to be like these people.

Given that, in the example Jesus gave, the hypocrite is one who does good in public, it would be wise to stop and ask: What is hypocrisy? Who is a hypocrite? What’s so bad about hypocrisy?

The internet hive-mind at Wikipedia says this about hypocrisy:

“Hypocrisy is the contrivance of a false appearance of virtue or goodness, while concealing real character or inclinations, especially with respect to religious and moral beliefs… the practice of engaging in the same behavior or activity for which one criticizes another. In moral psychology, it is the failure to follow one’s own expressed moral rules and principles…. It is a cause, as well as a result, of cognitive biases and distortions which predispose humans to effortlessly perceive and condemn faults in others, while failing to perceive and condemn faults of their own.”

Wikipedia continues:

“In everyday reasoning, humans do little to get real evidence when taking positions or making decisions, and do even less to get evidence for opposing positions. Instead, they tend to fabricate “pseudo-evidence” — often after the decision had already been made (“post hoc fabrication”).

“Humans take a position, look for evidence that supports it, then, if they find some evidence — enough so that the position “makes sense” — they stop thinking altogether (the “makes sense stopping rule”). And, when pressed to produce real evidence, they tend to seek and interpret “evidence” that confirms what they already believe (“the confirmation bias”).

“Moreover, humans tend to think highly of themselves, highlighting strengths and achievements, and overlooking weakness and failures (the “self-serving bias”). This is particularly true of Americans and Europeans: when asked to rate themselves on virtues, skills, or other desirable traits… a large majority say they are above average… This effect is weaker in Asian countries and in other cultures which value the group more highly than the self.”

Wikipedia continues: “Humans are very good at challenging the beliefs of other people, but when it comes to their own beliefs, they tend to protect them, not challenge them…. Humans tend to judge others by their behavior but think they have special information about themselves — that they know what they are really like inside — and thus effortlessly find ways to explain away selfish acts, and maintain the illusion that they are better than others.

“This distortion — hypo racy in its most destructive form — is characterized by the belief that (1) evil is the international and gratuitous infliction of harm for its own sake and (2) perpetuated by villains who are malevolent to the core, (3) inflicted on victims who are innocent and good. Psychologists call this a myth because believing in this fiction often blinds one to the reality that evil is in fact perpetrated mainly by ordinary people, who respond to perceived harms, including “provocations” by their victims, in ways they feel are reasonable and just. Evil is not rare — it is commonplace, banal. And all humans are capable of evil acts.”

It is interesting that these passages from Wikipedia very much align with this teaching Jesus gives:

“Judge not, that ye may not be judged, for in what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged, and in what measure ye measure, it shall be measured unto you. And why doth thou behold the mote that [is] in thy brother’s eye, and the beam that [is] in thine own eye dost not consider? or, how wilt thou say to they brother, Suffer I may cast out the mote from tine eye, and lo, the beam [is] in thine own eye? Hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then thou shall see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5

Even more interesting, Jesus continues this teaching in verse 15:

“But, take heed of the false prophets, who come unto you in sheep’s clothing, and inwardly are ravening wolves. From their fruits ye shall know them; do [men] gather from thorns grapes? Or from thistles figs? So every good tree doth yield good fruits, but the bad tree doth yield evil fruits. A good tree is not able to yield evil fruits, nor a bad tree to yield good fruits. Every tree not yielding good fruit is cut down and is cast into fire: therefore from their fruits ye shall know them.

“Not everyone who is saying to me Lord, lord, shall come into the reign of the heavens; but he who is doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, lord have we not in thy name prophesied? And in thy name cast out demons? And in thy name done many mighty things? And then I will acknowledge to them, that–I never knew you, depart from me ye who are working lawlessness. Therefore, every one who doth hear of me these words, and doth do them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house upon the rock; … And every who who is hearing of me these words, and is not doing them, shall be likened to a foolish man who built his house upon the sand.” Matthew 7:15-24, 26.

Someone who is real doesn’t have to tell everyone about all the good things they’ve done, which is a violation of the command Christ gave that when doing good works, our right hand is not to know what the left hand does. Those who brag on themselves are those who do not what Jesus commanded, they are those who built their house on sand.

Likewise, those who obsess over the lives of others in order to find fault so that they can point that fault out in order that they may look superior are not doing what Jesus commanded.

Why is it important to do what Jesus commanded? Quite simply, in John 14:15, Jesus says, “If you love me, my commands keep.”

Likewise, in Matthew 12:30, Jesus says “‘He who is not with me is against me, and he who is not gathering with, doth scatter. Because of this I say to you, all sin and evil speaking shall be forgiven to men, but the evil speaking of the Spirit shall not be forgiven to men. And whoever may speak a word against the Son of Man it shall be forgiven to him, but whoever may speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this age, nor in that which is coming.

“‘Either make the tree good, and it’s fruit good, or make the tree bad, and it’s fruit bad, for from the fruit is the tree known.

“‘Brood of vipers! How are ye able to speak good things–being evil? For out of the abundance of the heart doth the mouth speak. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart doth put forth the good things, and the evil man out of the evil treasure doth put forth evil things.

“‘And I say to you, that every idle word that man may speak, they shall give for it a reckoning in a day of judgement; for from thy words thou shalt be declared righteous, and from thy words thou shalt be declared unrighteousness.'” Matthew 12: 30-37

Here Jesus says that we are righteous or unrighteousness because of our words–interestingly enough, not actions–and that our words are a result of our heart.

This passage also says hypocrites are known by their fruits. Interesting then, when the most law-abiding religious leaders of Jesus’s day came to Christ, He rebuked them by quoting Isaiah 29:13—he called out their heart, not their actions. In fact, He then explained to his disciples that “‘nothing from without entering into the man is able to defile him? Because it doth not enter into his heart, but into the belly, and into the drain it doth go out, purifying all the meats.’ And he said — ‘That which is coming out from the man, that doth defile the man, for from within, out of the heart of men, the evil reasonings do come froth, adulteries, whoredoms, murders, thefts, covetous desires, wickedness, deceit, arrogance, and evil eye, evil speaking, pride, foolishness; all of these evils do come from within, and they do defile the man.'” Mark 7:18-23.

In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul addresses the works of the flesh much as Christ did: “And manifest also are the works of the flesh, which are: Adultery, whoredom, un cleanness, lascivious news, idolatry, witchcraft [in Greek, pharmakeia, which implies drug abuse is tied to sorcery], hatred, strikes, emulations, wreaths, rivalries, dissensions, sects, envying, murders, drunkenness, reveling so, and such like, of which I tell you before, as I also said before, that those doing such things the reign of God shall not inherit.”

Again we see a similar list in Revelation 21:8: “and the fearful, and un steadfast, and abominable, and murders, and whoremongers, and sorcerers [Greek: pharmakeus], and idolaters, and all the liars, their part [is] in the lake that is burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

These fruits are actions, then, that reflect a condition of the heart. While Jesus rebuked the actions, He didn’t do so out of judgement.

In John 3:14-21 [alternate meanings offered in brackets], Jesus says, “‘And as Moses did lift up the serpent in the wilderness, so it behoveth the Son of Man to be lifted up, that every one who is believing [trusting] in Him may not perish, but may have life age-during [eternal, everlasting], for God did so love the world, that His Son — the only begotten — He gave, that every one who is believing [trusting] in Him may not perish, but may have life age-during [eternal, everlasting]. For God did not send His. Son to the world that He may judge the world, but that the world may be saved through Him; he who is believing [trusting] in Him is not judged, but he who is not believing [trusting] hath been judged already, because he hath not believed [trusted] in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

“‘And this is the judgement, that the light hath come to the world, and men did love the darkness rather than the light, for their works were evil; for every one who is doing wicked things hateth the light, and doth not come unto the light, that his works may not be detected; but he who is doing the truth doth come to the light, that his works may be manifested, that in God they are having been wrought.'”

This is why hypocrisy was so important to Jesus. Jesus knew that people loved their evil too much to give it up, and yet they acted as though they had given up their evil. In doing so, they were cutting themselves off from the very salvation Jesus came to offer. In the teaching of Jesus, Jesus equates hypocrisy with spiritual death and judgement.

In Matthew 23:24-39, Jesus says, “‘Blind guides! Who are straining out the gnat and the camel are swallowing.

“‘Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because ye make clean the outside of the cup and the plate, and within they are full of rapine [American Heritage: Forceable seizure of another’s property: plunder] and incontinence [urine and/or fecal matter].

“‘Blind Pharisee! Cleanse first the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside of them also may become clean.

“‘Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because ye are like to whitewashed sepulchers [Merriam-Webster: a place of burial; a receptacle for religious relics especially an altar], which outwardly indeed do appear beautiful, and within are full of bones of dead men, and of all uncleanness; so ye outwardly indeed do appear to men righteous, and within ye are full of hypo racy and lawlessness.

“‘Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the sepulchers of the prophets, and adorn the tombs of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. So that ye testify to yourselves, that ye are sos of them who did murder the prophets; and ye — ye fill up the measure of your fathers.

“‘Serpents! Brood of vipers! How many ye escape from the judgement of the Gehenna [the place where children were offered as sacrifice to Molech]?

“‘Because of this, lo, I send you prophets, and wise men, and scribes, and of them ye will kill and crucify, and of them ye will scourge in your synagogues, and will pursue from city to city; that on you may come all the righteous blood being poured out on the earth from the blood of Abel the righteous, unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the sanctuary and the altar: verily I say unto you all these things shall come upon this generation.

“‘Jerusalem, that art killing the prophets, and stoning those sent unto thee, how often did I will to gather thy children together, as a hen doth gather her own chickens under the wings, and ye did not will. Lo, left desolate to you is your house; for I say to you, ye may not see me henceforth, till ye may say, Blessed [is] he who is coming in the name of the Lord.'”

In Mark 6:11, Jesus teaches: “and as many as may not receive you, nor hear you, going out thence, shake off the dust that is under your feet for a testimony to them; verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom or Gomorrah in a day of judgement than for that city.”

In Matthew 24:48-51, Jesus says, “‘And if that evil servant may say in his heart, My Lord delay to come, and may begin to breath the fellow-servants, and to eat and to drink with the drunken, the lord of that servant will arrive in a day when he doth not expect, and in an hour of which he doth not know, and will cut him off, and his portion with the hypocrites will appoint; there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of the teeth.”

And in John 5:34, Jesus says: “‘Ye search the Writings, because ye think in them to have life age-during [eternal, everlasting], and these are they that are testifying concerning me; and ye do not will to come unto me, that ye may have life; glory from man I do not receive, but I have known you, that the love of God ye have not in yourselves.”

In John 5:24 Jesus says, “Verily, verily, I say to you–He who is hearing my word, and is believing [trusting] Him who sent me, hath life age-during [eternal, everlasting], and to judgement he doth not come, but hath passed out of the death to life life.”

Human nature is interesting. And infuriating. The most evil people put on a show, pretending to be good and innocent. The deeper they’re steeped in sin, the more holy they try to appear. The more wicked they live, the more respect they demand from others. When they don’t get their way, they throw fits, they manipulate others, they lie.

How are we to respond? In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus says this: “‘Ye heard that it was said: Thou shalt love they neighbor, and shalt hate thine enemy; but I–I say to you, Love your enemies, bless those cursing you, do good to those hating you, and pray for those accusing you falsely, and persecuting you, that ye may be sons of your Father in the heavens, because His sun He doth cause to rise on evil and good, and He doth send rain on righteous and unrighteousness.

“‘For, if ye may love those loving you, what reward have ye?do not also the tax gatherers the same? And if ye may salute your brethren only, what do ye abundant? Do not also the tax gathers so? Ye shall therefore be perfect, as your Father who [is] in the heavens is perfect.”

Interesting, isn’t it, that Pharisees and the Scribes were considered perfect within their own circles, yet Jesus called them vipers and even worse. And yet, he commands us to love our enemies, bless those cursing, pray for those accusing falsely and persecuting–and he ties this teaching with a form of perfection.