“So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward!” (Matthew 6:2, HCSB)
“Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward!” (Matthew 6:5, HCSB)
“Whenever you fast, don’t be sad-faced like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive so their fasting is obvious to people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward!” (Matthew 6:16, HCSB)
Hypocrites in Jesus’ time were known as actors. These actors played in Greek theaters as performers for the people. In their plays, these actors would switch between a sad mask and a happy mask for whatever scene they were playing. The purpose of the mask was to show the emotion that was called for in the scene. It was the simplest way to render an emotion which the actor did not want to show.Today, the word hypocrite means to be two-faced, or someone who is not sincere. However, in Jesus’ time, the word still meant someone who was wearing a mask. People wear face masks and costumes on Halloween to hide their true identity. They wear the masks in order to get something from another person. Kids might go “trick or treating” in order to receive candy. It seems like a simple game.
This is similar to how people act to others in church. Just as Jesus’ time, Christians wish to show that they care about the poor, that they love to pray, and that they want to show that they fast, These three actions are by definition holy acts. We are showing love for others and love to God when we decide to pray, fast, and give to the poor. However, when we do these acts because we want the attention of other people, then we are truly wearing masks – we are acting. We are hiding our true nature behind these holy acts.
What are we communicating to the world when we act one way in church and act another way in church? We are saying that we are willing to be fake in order to get the attention we really desire. It is the reward of public attention. Jesus warns us to stop wearing these masks for attention sake. Wearing masks may be fun for Halloween, but it is a bad practice for the Christian.