How would you define the word hypocrisy? Is it simply the divergence between what you do and what you feel? The dictionary says that “it is the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense.” Perhaps you could say one is a hypocrite when what people observe on the outside of an individual is not parallel to what is in the inside or one’s public persona is quite different than one’s private character. Rather than finding their value and worth through integrity, honesty and humility, hypocrisy drives one to be an actor. The hunger for people’s applause makes them eager to impress others through visible good deeds and words whether it is consistent or not with their private or interior personage.
Perhaps Jesus’ most forceful sermon was given on this very subject. He spoke to the crowds and to His disciples while He was at the synagogue and declared in very clear terms that the “teachers of the law and the Pharisees were actually hypocrites”. As He went on in this sermon, He had several other names for them – blind guides, whitewashed tombs, snakes, and vipers. With each of the seven warnings that He gave to them that day, He carefully illustrated why He found them to be at fault. He told them about their haughty attitudes, selfishness, and sinfulness. Apparently Jesus knew that He must convey these important truths now before the Passover and the day when the religious leaders were able to carry out their plans to arrest and to kill Him.
As Chuck Swindoll said in his comment on this sermon, “Our Lord reserved His strongest and longest sermon not for struggling sinners, discouraged disciples or prosperous people, but for hypocrites, glory hogs, and legalists. The sin of hypocrisy is in thinking that who others think you are matters a great deal more than whom God knows you to be.”