“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’” Matthew 15:7-9
As disciples of Jesus we are surrounded by a culture that is addicted to acting. Commercials, television shows, movies, video games, music videos,YouTube videos… on and on it goes. Millions tune in to award shows to see actors and actresses honored and awarded for their work in film. It is an amazing talent to portray a completely different persona as if it is one’s own – to convince all who watch that you are a different person than you really are. Of course, directors, make-up artists, and script writers are all a part of the process, but those who act get the lion’s share of the attention and admiration in the worlds of film and stage.
While most people can’t act well on camera or on stage, the truth is that acting comes naturally to all of us. Hypocrisy, the human trait most vehemently opposed by our Master Jesus, is essentially a person’s attempt to portray himself/herself as someone they are not. Hypocrisy is deception of oneself, but it can never stop there. Those caught in the grip of hypocrisy want to deceive everyone around them. Worst (and most ridiculously) of all, the hypocrite seeks to deceive God Himself.
It’s not hard to imagine why our Master would despise hypocrisy so much. He is, after all, “the truth” (John 14:6) and the One who came from the Father “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14) in order to “testify to the truth” (John 18:37). One of the reasons we so admire and honor our Master is that “no deceit was found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:22).
One of the reasons hypocrisy is so dangerous, Disciple, is that it is so subtle. The Master warned His first disciples to beware the hypocrisy of their religious leaders (Matthew 16:6,12). Hypocrisy can spread, you see, through the example of those who lead us. We can come to accept that playing the part and wearing the religious mask is what’s expected and, therefore, what’s right. Jesus came to set the record straight: our Father is looking for worshippers who will worship Him in spirit and in truth – not just scripted religious words and perfunctory rituals. The scripts and rituals are almost entirely “merely human rules” and do nothing to satisfy God.
The heart of the issue is, of course, the heart of the person. When dealing with the one person in all the universe who can perfectly see your heart, it just won’t do to try and fool Him. Ah, but what a joyful and liberating thing it is to offer a genuine heart of worship and submission to the God who can see into our truest selves! For when He sees a heart of honest love and devotion, He is delighted to honor that worshiper. He is quick to draw near and reveal Himself to them. He is happy to make a home with them.
Let’s search ourselves today, Disciple, knowing that our Father is searching us as well. Let us throw off any masks that we might be prone to hide behind, living in the beautiful light of truth and offering ourselves as we really are to the One who sees who we really are and loves us immeasurably even still.
Learning to be genuine with God and neighbor with you,