“Don’t be a hypocrite,” is a statement that we use and hear a lot in our culture. It is also a word that Jesus uses a lot in His sermon on the mount found in Matthew 5-7. Hypocrite is the Greek word for actor. In a simplistic understanding a hypocrite is someone who pretends. This happens a lot in our Church as a whole. People claim to be a follower of Christ, but their actions speak very differently. It seems that a lot of people put on a very good show, especially on Sunday’s, but for the most part of their lives that is not who they really are. A few verses from Matthew will bring out my point. “And when you fast. Don’t put on a sad face like the hypocrites. They distort their faces so people will know they are fasting. I assure you that they have3 their reward. When you fast, brush your hair and wash your face. Then you won’t look like you are fasting to people, but only to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matt. 6)
Jesus is not speaking out against fasting or against people who do certain practices in the Church. In fact, this passage is making the case to fast. However, when we discipline ourselves in these ways we should be doing them for the right reasons. We definitely should not be doing them because we believe we should or for religious sake. Our spiritual disciplines should be something we desire because we know they bring us closer to the Lord and each other. A hypocrite is someone who does these certain acts so that they can appear to others that they have a relationship with God. They do it for status or praise or begrudgingly. This goes for any spiritual discipline; prayer, scripture reading, acts of mercy, worship, etc.… What is the point of doing these things if all it brings is glory to yourself? A hypocrite is someone who only thinks of themselves. They want the praise. They want people to notice them. Just like actors on the stage, they want to be able to take a bow in recognition of their performance.
As we journey together through this season of Lent one of the ways in which we can reflect upon our relationship with God is asking the question “why”. Why am I really doing what I do? What is the reasoning behind my actions? Why do I come to Sunday Worship? Why do I read the Bible? Why am I fasting? Why do I pray? Am I being a hypocrite with my religion? A true authentic church is one that asks these questions. For me personally I do these things in hopes that I bring glory to God. The highest compliment I can give God is to not even be in the picture when people see me. I want them to only see Christ in me. Lent is about self-denial. A good word that we need to know is the Greek word kenosis. It means: emptying ourselves. The word kenosis appears in Philippians 2:7, “But he [Jesus] emptied (kenosis) himself by taking the form of a slave and by becoming like human beings.” Lent is a season of emptying ourselves so that we may be filled with God’s presence. How can we be a hypocrite if we have denied all of our selfish desires so that Christ may be seen more clearly in the world? This should be our attitude as Christ followers. We point to Christ in all that we do. Our disciplines must reflect this goal. And we do not do this for our sake, but for the sake of all people especially those who do not know the love of Christ. Let us truly ask the question; are we being authentic or hypocrites?