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What is a Hypocrite?
This is a word thrown around a lot in today’s world by people who don’t want anything to do with Christ because of all the hypocrites in the church. They often say “I can live that good, without your Jesus”. So what exactly is a hypocrite?
According to the World English Dictionary the definition of a hypocrite is “a person who pretends to be something he is not”. Basically this means a deceiver. This may include a person who “portrays themselves to be wealthy to gain the trust of other wealthy people”, a person who “portrays themselves to be a person of good works when they are using the money donated for their own gain” or even a person who “assures you a product will work when they know it won’t”. They are in essence liars for portraying something that is not true. They are also people who don’t mind taking credit for someone else’s work. All of these are deceivers. If I took a sermon written by my father and sent it to you or published it on the internet AS MY OWN (with or without my name as the author) does that not make me a deceiver and a liar? Would I be leading you to believe something that was not true? Would that not make me a hypocrite according to the definition of hypocrite found in the dictionary?
The scribes and the Pharisees were the ones we most often see as being rebuked for their hypocrisy. You may ask however why these men? The scribes and the Pharisees were the religious leaders of their day. They were the people who others looked to in order to know what was right or wrong. They had come to the point they wanted to be recognized for every charitable work they did, they wanted people to know they were praying, they wanted people to know when they were fasting, etc.
This is something Jesus rebuked. He had no tolerance for people who did these things. In Matthew 6:2 we see where he says (King James Version) “Therefore when thou doest [thine] alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”
So here Jesus makes it perfectly clear we are not supposed to announce all the good things we do. This is something that is very common in the church world today. We have churches/church leaders who publish every good thing they do in the newspapers and on the internet. Now let me make this clear, there are times a ministry must let the community know of something going on (ie we are gathering clothing for an upcoming mission trip to Haiti) but to publish things like “we adopted 14 children through the Santa Pal program, had a wonderful party and gave them their gifts” is no different than the people giving alms and making a show of it. Another example of this would be the preacher or other person making sure everyone knows they pay their $100 in tithes every week.
Just a few verses later we see him rebuking once again. Matthew 6:5 tells us “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites [are]: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” In Matthew 6:16 he says “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”
These are both cases of people making a show of what they are doing and wanting recognition for it. This is very prevalent in today’s world. There are many cases that could be found but it all comes back to a person who is self centered just as the scribes and Pharisees were. People today STILL want glory for the work they do for the Lord. There are ministers out there who look at it as a job. There was one we spoke with recently who said he was a “worship minister” and he had been in various parts of the country in various denominations and was complaining because “churches didn’t want to pay him enough to support his family”. He told us he would do whatever kind of music the church asked him to do in whatever denomination no matter the beliefs as long as the pay was good. Now I ask you, is that a true Christian or is that one who is in it for the glory?
Ministers are still well respected in most areas although it is becoming more and more a “job” and not a calling. Nonetheless for the most part a minister is one of the most respected positions there are. People follow the teachings and in most churches/denominations they receive a decent amount of pay. In 2006,“On average, an ordained Protestant pastor serving a small congregation received a median salary and housing package of $31,234, according to a study by sociologist Jackson Carroll. But there is a wide disparity in compensation between Protestant pastors serving small congregations and those serving medium and large congregations. For example, a Protestant pastor serving a congregation of more than 1,000 members received a median salary and housing package of $81,923.” (Hartford Institute for Religious Research). That is definitely more than the average retail, factory worker or service worker in the United States. In most cases the minister has others to assist him in his work and thus there are more hours of “freedom” to do as he wishes. Many larger churches in the USA have a paid staff to do the things many used to do voluntarily. Is it so unusual then that we see people entering into the ministry for the pay and benefits, especially in the more “affluent” denominations? The problem comes when the person serving in the ministry is NOT called into it and even worse not a Christian. These are nothing more than hypocrites. They are deceiving the people into believing false ideas and concepts. This makes it very easy to for Satan to slip people into the pulpits.
Ask yourself this, have you been guilty of doing things that are hypocritical? Do you preach one thing and live another? Do you preach love your enemy as your brother and then say things that hurt your brother or sister? Do you portray yourself to be something you are not? If so then you are no better than the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus himself rebuked. The Lord knows your heart and your intent. If it isn’t pure in serving him but it is to gain respect here in this world or to gain riches, then you are a Pharisee.
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