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What Does Jesus Mean by Hypocrisy? Itís More than You Might Think
Archdiocese of Washington ^ | 6/18/2014 | Msgr. Charles Pope

Posted on 06/19/2014 2:44:22 AM PDT by markomalley

In the Gospel from Ash Wednesday’s Mass, Jesus gives an extended teaching on the problem of hypocrisy. You can read it here: Matthew 6 – On Hypocrisy. In the modern age we have tended to reduce the idea of hypocrisy to duplicity. The modern notion is that a hypocrite is someone who says one thing but does another, a person who is two-faced, inconsistent, or phony. Jesus’ teaching on hypocrisy does not exclude this definition, but it is far richer.

The biblical understanding used by Jesus is rooted in the original meaning of the Greek word ?p????ta? (hypokritai), which means “stage actors.” At one level it is easy to see how this word has come to mean someone who is phony. For what hypocrites claim to be, they really are not; they are just acting a role. But when no one is looking (i.e., the audience is gone), the hypocrite reverts to his true self, which is someone quite different. Jesus, in his teaching here, develops the understanding far more richly and shows how sad and poignant hypocrisy is, what its origin is, and how it can be overcome.

Hypocrisy defined – In effect, Jesus describes hypocrisy as the sad state of a person who reduces himself to being an actor on a stage, because he does not know God the Father. There are many people who live their lives in a desperate search for human approval and applause. They discern their dignity and worth not from God, who is in effect a stranger to them, but from what other human beings think of them. They are willing to adapt themselves, often in dramatic ways, in order to win approval. They are willing to play many roles and wear many masks to please the audience. They are like actors on a stage, who seek applause or perhaps laughter and approval. Notice the way Jesus describes the heart of hypocrisy:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them …” The Lord goes on to say that they blow trumpets so that others will see them giving alms; they pray ostentatiously so that others may see that they are praying; they alter their appearances so that others may see that they are fasting.

The heart of hypocrisy – Thus, the goal of such people is to be seen. They are on stage and seek to ingratiate themselves to the audience and win applause. Hence they engage in some action “in order that people may see them.” It is clear that this is ultimately very sad: a lonely actor on a stage performing whatever role is required in order to win approval from the current audience, his inner core or deepest self repressed and replaced by the demands of others. This is the true heart and description of hypocrisy.

Some take this desperate need for approval to very self-destructive extremes. Many young people, due to peer pressure, will engage in dangerous and unhealthy practices in order to win approval. Some will drop out of school, join gangs, and commit crimes. Others will drink heavily or use drugs. Still others will tattoo or pierce their bodies, engage in sexual activity before marriage, or do other risky things. The need for approval is often the deep drive that underlies this desperate behavior. But like actors on a stage seeking applause, they rush to fill these roles and wait for the applause and acceptance.

Adults, too, will often compromise core principles in order to fit in and be liked, gain promotions, or earn access. Christians will hide their faith, playing the role of the secular modern, in order to win approval. Some will act deceitfully in order to please a boss; others will gossip or engage in any number of sinful behaviors to ingratiate themselves to a group.

It is also clear that our modern notion of hypocrisy as duplicity, while incomplete, is not entirely wrong. Why does the hypocrite act inconsistently, often in a duplicitous manner? Because the audience changes, and therefore he must change with it. And so to one group he will say “yes” and to another group he will say “no.” Since the goal of the hypocrite (actor) is to be seen and to win approval, the answer must change if the group changes. Hence he will morph, hide his true thoughts, or outright lie in order to gain the approval. The hypocrite no longer has a core; his identity is outside of himself in whatever the audience requires in order to grant him approval.

Why does this happen to a person? Here, too, Jesus is rather clear. This happens to a person because he does not know God the Father. The great tragedy of many people’s lives is that they do not know the Father. They may know ABOUT God, but they do not personally know God nor do they comprehend the depth of His love for them. To them, God is at best a benevolent stranger who runs the universe. He is off in some remote heaven somewhere and the interaction they have with Him is vague and abstract. God exists but He is on the periphery of their lives. In effect, God is a stranger to them.

Notice the remedy that Jesus gives for each example of hypocrisy he cites:

Your heavenly Father, who sees in secret will repay you for giving alms … Your heavenly Father who sees in secret will repay you for praying … Your heavenly Father who sees what is hidden will repay you for your fasting.

In other words, the goal in life and the remedy for hypocrisy is that it is enough that your heavenly Father sees what you do. Now of course as long as God remains a distant and aloof figure, what He sees will NEVER be enough for us. But to the degree that we begin to experience God the Father’s love for us, His providence, and His good will toward us; we become less concerned with what others think. We begin to come down off the stage and show less concern about the approval of men, and more focus on and then satisfaction with the approval of God.

Notice, too, the intimacy that Jesus sets forth. Jesus says that God is ”your heavenly Father.” He is not merely the “Deity.” He is not merely “God in Heaven.” He is not even merely “the Father.” He is “YOUR heavenly Father.” He is the one who created you, sustains you, provides for you, and loves you.

Journeying away from Hypocrisy – To the degree that this becomes real for us and is more than just words on the page of a book, or inferential knowledge based only on what others have said; to the degree that this is a real experience for us, we start to climb off the stage. We are less the actor (the hypocrite) and more the authentic self that God has created us to be. We begin to lose our obsession with what others think of us. We are less desperate for their approval. It is not that we become sociopaths, caring not one whit what others think. We still groom ourselves, etc., but we are not obsessed with the good opinion of others. It is enough that we know our heavenly Father and of His love for us.

Hence hypocrisy, at least as Jesus teaches it here, is a richer concept than we often think of today. To this sad and poignant problem, Jesus addresses a very powerful and personal solution of knowing “your heavenly Father” and experiencing His love for you. Thank you, Lord Jesus!


TOPICS: Catholic; Ecumenism; General Discusssion; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: ashwednesday; catholic; hypocrisy; msgrcharlespope

1 posted on 06/19/2014 2:44:22 AM PDT by markomalley
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To: AllAmericanGirl44; Biggirl; Carpe Cerevisi; ConorMacNessa; Faith65; GreyFriar; Heart-Rest; ...

Msgr Pope ping


2 posted on 06/19/2014 2:45:16 AM PDT by markomalley (Nothing emboldens the wicked so greatly as the lack of courage on the part of the good -- Leo XIII)
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To: markomalley

Mark I must say these are some of the best messages/devotionals/mini sermons I have seen they are so punchy and succinct yet full of grace. I have liked them so much I have bookmarked the site - thank you!

Mel


3 posted on 06/19/2014 2:50:51 AM PDT by melsec (Once a Jolly Swagman camped by a Billabong.)
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To: markomalley

Why does this happen to a person? To become part of the mob mentality has its comforts. You can think of wrong as being right as long as everyone else is doing the same thing. You can shift responsibility for blame to everyone around you.


4 posted on 06/19/2014 2:56:58 AM PDT by Telepathic Intruder (The only thing the Left has learned from the failures of socialism is not to call it that)
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To: markomalley; Tax-chick; GregB; Berlin_Freeper; SumProVita; narses; bboop; SevenofNine; ...

Ping


5 posted on 06/19/2014 3:14:10 AM PDT by NYer ("You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears." James 4:14)
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To: markomalley

Good read.


6 posted on 06/19/2014 4:16:12 AM PDT by defconw (LUTFA!)
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To: markomalley

Wonderful essay. Thanks for posting it.


7 posted on 06/19/2014 5:27:13 AM PDT by Bigg Red (31 May 2014: Obamugabe officially declares the USA a vanquished subject of the Global Caliphate.)
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To: markomalley

This sermon of Jesus’ was always one of my favorites. Jesus never failed to nail it right where it belonged.


8 posted on 06/19/2014 5:53:51 AM PDT by cloudmountain
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To: markomalley

Your heavenly Father, who sees in secret will repay you for giving alms … Your heavenly Father who sees in secret will repay you for praying … Your heavenly Father who sees what is hidden will repay you for your fasting.


9 posted on 06/19/2014 6:12:53 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: markomalley

Nice, but one glaring flaw. Although Matthew was possibly written in Greek (Papias wrote that it was written in Hebrew), Jesus most certainly did not speak the sermon in Greek. This approach is nothing less that eisegesis. An equivalent would be to take the modern usage of a word, and read it back into a text. The only valid approach with using Greek that was written, but not spoken; is to do a comparative study on the word if found in the Septuagint. Give me the Hebrew word He spoke, then we are getting somewhere. Nice thoughts you have though...


10 posted on 06/19/2014 6:30:28 AM PDT by Tzfat
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To: Tzfat
Jesus most certainly did not speak the sermon in Greek.

what are you basing this on?

11 posted on 06/19/2014 1:26:04 PM PDT by ealgeone (obama, borderof)
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To: ealgeone

The common folk spoke Hebrew. That is a historical fact (the upper crust spoke Aramaic). Greek was known in the Decapolis, but not the native tongue. The fact that Acts records a synagogue of Hellenists in Jerusalem supports this view- it was not the norm. Read Papias if you doubt me.


12 posted on 06/19/2014 7:13:17 PM PDT by Tzfat
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To: Tzfat

Hebrews roots stuff does not have anything to support it.

There’s been lots of claims before on FR that Mathew was written in Hebrew, and there’s not one shred of evidence to support it that has ever been given.

Now, if you have something, have at it. You’d be the first to post this secret knowledge and where it’s from.


13 posted on 06/19/2014 8:16:36 PM PDT by metmom (...fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith....)
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To: Tzfat
Eusebius, despite his own views on Papias, knew that Irenaeus believed Papias to be a reliable witness to original apostolic traditions.[55] Later scholars have been questioning of Papias' reliability. Much discussion of Papias's comments about the Gospel of Mark and Gospel of Matthew is concerned with assessing Papias' reliability as evidence for the origins of these Gospels or with emphasizing the apologetic character of the Gospels in order to discredit their reliability.[56] Casey argued that Papias was indeed reliable, but reliable about a Hebrew collection of sayings by the Apostle Matthew which had nothing to do with the Greek Gospel of Matthew, either incorrectly ascribed to Matthew or written by another Matthias.[57] Concerning the Gospel of Mark, many modern scholars have dismissed Papias' reliability regarding this Gospel due to the purpose of Papias in vindicating the apostolicity of Mark's Gospel.[58][59][60]

you sure about this guy? granted, it's from Wikipedia.

14 posted on 06/19/2014 8:23:11 PM PDT by ealgeone (obama, borderof)
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To: metmom
Actually, in what is called 'fragments of Papias' there is early mention that the book of Matthew was written in Hebrew, but it is not without some controversy. There are other patristics too from a bit later which may indicate similar (Matthew written in Hebrew) but I'm a bit too worn at the moment to go search it out.

Both of the following links go to discussions


15 posted on 06/19/2014 9:38:11 PM PDT by BlueDragon (the wicked flee when none pursueth, but the righteous...are as bold as a lion)
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To: metmom

Chase that squirrel. The point was not that Matthew was written in Hebrew, it was that Matthew’s use of Greek is not the language spoken for the sermon. Greek was a trade language in the Decapolis region, but not the language of the common people listening. That would be Hebrew, or possibly Aramaic.


16 posted on 06/20/2014 3:48:14 AM PDT by Tzfat
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To: ealgeone

Don’t like Papias? Then tell Jerome that Greek was the common man’s language. Sheesh, history is clearly not a strong point around here.


17 posted on 06/20/2014 3:50:32 AM PDT by Tzfat
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