The word “hypocrite” refers to an actor, someone playing a part. A hypocrite is someone who shows what he is not. The life of a hypocrite is double-faced (ndi ihu abuo). A hypocrite loves to appear holy or virtuous but deep inside him or her, he or she is not. The life of a hypocrite is always full of deception.
The life of a hypocrite is fake. He always moves with false appearance and virtuous practices. In the presence of people, the hypocrite acts like a good man. He puts up a false appearance of virtues. Hence, the way he behaves or the way he does is far from what he showcases in the presence of people.
Hypocrites are people who come to you with smiles and a fake appearance of innocence but deep down in their hearts, they come to you with a hidden and false agenda.
So several times in today’s holy gospel, Jesus calls the scribes and the Pharisees hypocrites because what they teach is not what they practice and who they appear to the people is not what they are. Jesus says that they pray only to be seen and attract recognition.
The Pharisees only play-acts, trying to attract attention. Therefore, the life of a hypocrite is only to attract attention.
A Hypocrite gives false information about himself.
He appears to be holy, he speaks in tongue more than any person, he may be the first person that comes to church or morning masses, etc but deep down in his heart, he knows he is doing all those things just to appear righteous.
He may not be doing them from the heart. Jesus says in today’s gospel to beware of such kinds of people.
Alas for You, Scribes and Pharisees.
Jesus says in the gospel, alas for you scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.
The word “alas” is a word one uses to express regret, grief and sadness over something that happened.
It is used as a form of exclamation to express sorrow, grief, pity, concern over the behaviour of somebody or over what happened to somebody. So, when Jesus says “alas for you Pharisees” it shows deep regret and sadness over the attitude of the Pharisees. This simply means that Jesus detests the life of a hypocrite. He calls them blind guides.
Many translate it as woes. In this chapter of the bible, Jesus has seven woes for the Pharisees. Verse 13 which is part of today’s gospel begins the seven woes. This means that Jesus strongly condemns the life of a pharisee and the scribes.
He gradually exposes the corruption exhibited by them who thus hide under their spiritual image. In a sense, when we hide under the pretence of what we are, to do evil, we are hypocrites. Jesus detests this kind of life.
Hypocrites Shut Up the Kingdom of God Against Men.
In the gospel, Jesus tells the Pharisees “you hypocrites! You who shut up the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces, neither going in yourselves nor allowing others to go in who want to”.
Remember that Jesus comes to announce the reign of God’s kingdom, so by refusing Jesus, the Pharisees close the entrance of God’s kingdom to themselves.
Hence, Jesus calls them hypocrites because they do not want to accept him and also make others not to. The religious leaders of that time were more interested in making laws and rules for the people rather than listening to the word of Jesus.
For the Pharisees, the law is more important than listening or coming to Jesus. Therefore, by doing this, they distract others from fully accepting the message of salvation and depending only on the laws.
An example is in Luke 6:7 when the Pharisees and the scribes keep watching Jesus to see if He can heal on the Sabbath. For them, the law of the sabbath is more important than allowing people to receive salvation. So, they do not accept the messages of Jesus and also block others from doing so.
So, Jesus calls them hypocrites, since they claim to teach God’s way but refuse to accept Him who is the kingdom par excellence. Jesus has the message of eternal life yet the Pharisees who claim to represent God, fail to recognise him and hinder those who try to do so.
Therefore, we become like the Pharisees when what we represent is not who we are. This is when we use our positions also to do what is not in line with what our position represents.
We claim to know and teach about God, but we do not truly believe in Him. We shout Amen to prayers but our hearts are very far away from God. It is when we use our status as Christians to lead souls astray instead of bringing them back to God.
This is when we claim to represent God, but we have used our positions to bring many souls down instead of bringing them up. The life of a hypocrite can mislead souls.
The Hypocrite travels land and sea to win one proselyte but Change them.
Jesus says to them again; “Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who travel over sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when you have him you make him twice as fit for hell as you are”.
The word proselyte comes from the Greek word proselutos, which means one who has approached or drawn near. So the proselyte is one who initially was not a jew or does not practice their laws but later was fully converted.
Thus he accepts the laws and circumcision and then becomes in the fullest sense a Jew. Therefore, these religious leaders go to great lengths to win these converts, but instead of converting them to God, they convert them to Pharisaism. Hence, instead of showing the converts the way of salvation, they teach them the way of the Pharisees. This is why Jesus says that they make themselves as hells as they are.
Hence, the life of a hypocrite is full of deception. This is when we try to convert people and bring them closer to them with a sense to help them spiritually but instead of bringing them to God, we mislead them.
The hypocrite brings people to himself but instead of turning them to God, he causes them to sin against God. Such is the life of a hypocrite.
This is when we use the bible to come to people but deep down within our heart, we use the bible to deceive. It is when we use prayers to deceive people but truly it is not prayer that we want to do. One may have an evil plan but is afraid that someone may suspect him or her, then he begins with preaching or quoting the bible.
Sometimes, they fake that they want to go out for a vigil or prayer gathering. Deep down within them, that is not where they are going. Such is the life of a hypocrite. The life of a hypocrite uses the bible and prayers as cover. Deep down within them, they know that what they are doing is not real.
The Hypocrite Makes False and Deceptive Oaths.
Lastly, Jesus says “Alas for you, blind guides! You who say, “If a man swears by the Temple, it has no force; but if a man swears by the gold of the Temple, he is bound.” Fools and blind! For which is of greater worth, the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred?
The jews believe that oath-taking is binding. When you make an oath, you must fulfil it. But broadly speaking, an oath becomes absolutely binding when the name of God is employed in it. They do this so that they will not be a victim of not keeping the commandment in Exodus 20:17 which says “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name”.
So, any other oath may be legitimately broken if the name of God is not in it. The Pharisees construct an elaborate system of oaths but tend to be careful so that they can find an excuse if they break the oaths. So, that which has no force is what the Pharisees ask people to do.
Instead of swearing by the temple or the altar, they ask the people to swear by the gold of the temple and the offering. They know that when they swear by these, it can be broken.
Jesus then calls them blind guides because they are misleading the people and misinterpreting the scriptures upside down. Hence, the hypocrites use their positions to make deceptive and false oaths.
So, Jesus is asking them “the temple which is the dwelling place of God and the gold which is only a decoration which one is greater? The altar represents the meeting place between God and man and the offering which is only a gift which one that is greater.
The Pharisees know this but they dodge them so that when someone makes an oath, he can break them.
Hence, the life of a hypocrite is the life of someone who turns the truth upside down. They can always like the devil even refer to the scriptures to support the evil things they do. They know the truth but they do not accept it because they want to achieve their evil intention and desire.
The life of a hypocrite is a life that is motivated by lies to achieve an evil intention. Everything about him or her is fake. What the hypocrite shows is not who he is. Then the question for us today is “are we hypocrites? In what way have we also exhibited hypocritical attitudes? Is what we show to the people what we are?
When we pray, do we do it only to showcase attention and prove how powerful we are or are we truly praying? When you take videos of charity you do, what is the intention behind it? Jesus detests everything hypocritical. This is why He out rightly condemns it today.
May God give us the grace to live a pure and sincere life. May we do not hide under the pretence of good Christians but behind the scenes, it is not what we are. We pray that God help us to live out what we represent. Amen.