What Is a Christian Hypocrite?

What Is a Christian Hypocrite? June 21, 2018

What is a Christian?

A Christian is someone who is undergoing a theological, moral, and social transformation—a radical change in their thoughts, actions, and relationships. A Christian is someone who holds tight to the good news—the truth that Jesus died in our place for our sins, a fact proven by His resurrection from the dead.

What is a hypocrite?

A hypocrite is a person who does not preach what they practice or practice what they preach. A hypocrite is someone one who wears a mask and plays a role, pretending to be someone they are not.

Almost half of our survey participants (45%) agreed with the statement “Most Christians are hypocrites.” In our focus groups for this project across the country, we heard intense conversations about what looks like phony faith.

Often people outside Christianity see the faith not as good news but good deeds. By their definition, Christians are supposed to love people and feed people and help people—not talk about sin and repentance and Jesus. I have found that often they say, “Christians are hypocrites because they’re supposed to love everybody, and then they talk about sin. And that’s not loving.” But as a Christian, we answer, “That is loving.” People point out my sin and help me get past it. I talk to them about their sin and assist them in finding forgiveness and freedom. That is how we love each other.

Bible scholar Larry Richards explains the concept of hypocrisy in the New Testament. He says:

“The Greek words hypokrinomai (appears once in the NT), hypokrisis (6 times in the NT), and hypokritēs (20 times in the NT) denote someone acting out the part of a character in a play. In Greek drama the actors held over their faces oversized masks painted to represent the character they were portraying. In life, the hypocrite is a person who masks his real self while he plays a part for his audience.

That background of the word “hypocrite” in Greek theatre makes for an amazingly concrete definition. Richards goes on to explain what it looks like when someone “masks his real self” and “plays a part for his audience”:

What characterizes the religious hypocrite? In Matthew’s Gospel (where 16 of the 27 occurrences of these Greek words occur) we note these things:

  1. A hypocrite does not act spontaneously from the heart but with calculation, to impress observers (Mt 6:1–3).
  2. A hypocrite thinks only of the external trappings of religion, ignoring the central, heart issues of love for God and others (Mt 15:1–21).
  3. A hypocrite uses spiritual talk to hide base motives (Mt 22:18–22).

Jesus give us this warning that to the hypocrites of every age: “Woe to you” (Mt 23:13, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27, 29).”(1)

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