How Not to Be a Hypocrite
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, June 29, 1997
Copyright © 1997, P. G. Mathew
Be careful not to do your `acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Matthew 6:1-4 speaks about religious hypocrisy and its cure. There are two kinds of hypocrisy--the hypocrisy of pagans and the hypocrisy of people in the church. Here Jesus is speaking about the hypocrisy of the church.
Hypocrisy Is Not Revival
Hypocrisy is the opposite of revival. I once confronted a young man who was living in sin. Oh, he wept and cried when I spoke to him, but then he walked out, saying, "I want to sin." But praise be to God! Later I was told he changed his mind and desired to walk with God.
Such an incident demonstrates a mighty move of God in an individual's life. There are times when God's church experiences revival. But at the same time that some people are revived, there are others who are not interested in drinking from the oasis of living water at all. Some of them will even turn their backs on the flowing streams of living water and to chase after mirages that are sure to disappoint. But God would have all people to forsake every form of hypocrisy and live their lives conscious of the presence of God.
Years ago Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, "If we know that we are always in the presence of God and live therefore accordingly, I am quite certain that a revival would start at once." When God moves by his Spirit and we live in God-consciousness, there is revival.
How do we know if we are in revival? We will experience true holiness in our lives. Holiness is the fruit of any true revival. All self-adulation and hypocrisy will disappear and we will experience God in all his holy majesty. And in the light of this God-knowledge we will gain tremendous self-knowledge, which will result in godly repentance and forgiveness. Then the church will experience vital prayer and glorious worship. There will be joy unspeakable, full of glory.
May we repent of our sins and hypocrisy! May we begin to drink from the flowing streams of the water of life, that our souls may delight in spiritual vitality. And when we are revived by God, we will receive a profound realization of our relationship with him as our heavenly Father.
Living Before God
Matthew 6 speaks about living a Christian life in the world, but Matthew emphasizes that that life is lived before God our heavenly Father. There are twelve references to God the Father in this chapter in verses 1, 4, 8, 9, 14, 15, 26 and 32, and twice each in verses 6 and 18. God is called "your Father" or "your heavenly Father," meaning that as God's children, we live in the presence of our heavenly Father. He is always seeing and hearing us, observing us. And when we live conscious of that fact, that brings revival. Matthew 6 describes a life in which our righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. It is the life of those who are truly born of God and adopted into the family of God. Only such people can live lives of righteousness before their heavenly Father.
Did you know that no hypocrite shall ever enter into the kingdom of God. So you must ask yourself if you are a child of God--born of God and adopted into the very family of God? Is the God of the Scripture your heavenly Father? Matthew 6:1 speaks about doing righteousness, which means living as a citizen of the kingdom of God in the world. Doing righteousness is an evidence that you are a child of your heavenly Father.
Will these righteous acts help us to gain entrance into heaven? No. The Koran tells us that if a person prays, his prayer will take him halfway to the paradise. If he fasts, that will take him to the gates of paradise. But if a person gives alms, the gates will open for him and he will be admitted. But that is not what the Bible teaches. Christians should pray, fast, and help the poor and the needy, but those acts will not bring salvation. We do them because we have been saved, adopted as children of the heavenly Father and given access into the very presence of God. That is what salvation by grace means.
In 1 John 2:29 we read, "Everyone who does what is right has been born of him." Our doing of righteousness is proof that we have been born of God because only children of God can do righteousness. In 1 John 3:7 we read, "Dear friends, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous," and in verse 10, "This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are. Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God."
Hope for Hypocrites
Matthew 6 speaks about doing righteousness, which is possible only for those who have been born of God. But just as there are hypocrites in the world, so are there hypocrites in the church, and Matthew 6 particularly speaks about religious hypocrisy. Those who are not born of God can only practice hypocrisy. It is impossible for them to practice righteousness from the heart.
What hope is there for a hypocrite? Let me assure you, God loves hypocrites even today. How can I say that? The day of judgment has not yet come. John 3:16 tells us, "Whosoever believes on him shall not perish but have everlasting life," and I think hypocrites are included in that "whosoever." In other words, God loves and receives sinners.
Therefore, if you realize that you are a hypocrite, I urge you to repent and forsake your sins this day. God will receive you and you will then discover his power to live a holy life, a life of righteousness. In Matthew 11 Jesus told us, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light." When you are born of God, you will discover that his yoke is easy. You will discover that the law of the Lord brings delight to your soul, and you will know what it means to do be zealous to do good works.
Acts of Righteousness
Matthew 6:2-18 deals with three acts of righteousness. The first is supporting the needy by giving alms to the poor. That speaks of our outward relationships, our relationship to society. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy." If we are born of God, we will relate to society in this way.
The second act of righteousness is prayer. That is our upward relationship, our relationship with God. Prayer is the lifeline of a Christian. And, in fact, if we don't pray, it means we are not born of God. I know of people who do not pray although in society they might speak very piously. They may even quote John Calvin and Martin Luther. They clothe themselves with theology, but they never pray and spend time in devotion to God. If you are like that, then you must realize that you are a hypocrite. But there is hope even for hypocrites. This is the day of revival, of grace, of forgiveness. This is the day God welcomes sinners. So I urge you: Change!
What is the third act of righteousness? Fasting, which is a selfward action. We need to mortify ourselves. Through fasting we learn what it means to say no to all the demands our body makes. It is good to engage in the discipline of fasting.
What Is Almsgiving?
In Matthew 6:2-4 we read specifically about helping the needy, especially those of the household of faith, by giving alms. This is one of the acts of righteousness which God wants us to do. We read about this also in 1 John 3:17: "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?" If you do not share with your brother in need, you are not born again. You are not a Christian.
In James 1:27 James writes, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." Did you know Christianity is responsible for the hospitals, orphanages and other social welfare agencies throughout the world? It was not done through paganism or by religious hypocrites. Christians who were revived by God established social service agencies throughout the world.
The synagogues practiced helping the needy and taxed individuals for this purpose. Beyond that, people also made voluntary offerings to give to the needy. When such people gave an offering, their names were announced for all to hear and appreciate their generosity. Some people, therefore, gave alms, not to please God but to please men. They wanted to receive praise from men.
Pleasing Man or God?
Let me say again: When people work to please men, they are not simply trying to please others. No, they want to receive men's praise for their own pleasure and satisfaction. So these Pharisees that Jesus was speaking about were hypocrites. Why? They gave alms publicly, not to please God, but in order to receive the praise of men and satisfy their own desire for self-adulation and vainglory.
True children of God perform acts of righteousness solely to please our heavenly Father but children of the devil act with the goal of self-promotion. It is all for public relations. All the hypocrites do certain good works before men for the sole purpose of being seen by them. That is the specific intention in their hearts--to be seen by men and honored by them. Isn't that why you clean the house when there is a party and don't clean the house when there is no party? Isn't that why we pray in public but don't pray at home?
Most politicians are adept in doing good deeds for a photo-op. We heard the report of one politician during a funeral occasion. When he realized the camera was on him, he began to wipe something like a tear away from his eye. I don't think he was weeping, but he knew how to act before people in such a way that they will draw the conclusion that this man feels their pain.
Hypocrisy in the Church
Hypocrisy is rampant everywhere, even in the church. There was genuine social service and giving in the early church and yet in Acts 5 we read of some religious hypocrites, Ananias and Sapphira. At a time when others were giving generously to the church, this couple sold a piece of land and brought the money to the church. There was only one problem: they brought only a part of the proceeds but pretended it was the full amount they had received from the sale. Why do you think they did this? Because Ananias and Sapphira wanted to be known in the church as very pious and godly people. They wanted their names to be announced as was the custom in the synagogues. They wanted to hear, "Listen, O church, we have here Ananias and Sapphira, who sold their property and brought the full amount for the support of the people. Let us praise God for their sacrifice and give them a hand!"
Were Ananias and Sapphira blessed? No. Doom awaits all religious hypocrites, and, in time, the judgment of God will fall upon them. Ananias and Sapphira were pious pretenders who loved praise from men, but they died instantly in their hypocrisy. Why? The church was in revival.
All hypocrites are safe in the church when there is no revival. But when God brings revival, let me warn you, hypocrites must watch out! They must forsake their hypocrisy and line up with God.
What Is a Hypocrite?
What is the nature of a hypocrite? A hypocrite is a man-pleaser, and as we said before, that means hypocrites are really self-pleasers. They are narcissists who love, worship and adore themselves. They are fascinated by themselves. They exemplify the heart of sin--self-centeredness, self-pleasing, and self-glorying.
Every sinner is a self-pleaser, a self-worshiper. Every sinner is incapable of denying himself and serving God without the miracle of new birth. You know, people often speak of the parties they give or go to. Let me assure you, the purpose of all pagan parties is to receive praise for oneself. One goes to all the work so that those who come to the party may tell how wonderful the party is, how nice the host's things are, and all. And if you don't say anything, the one giving the party becomes miserable, wretched, frustrated, and gloomy. Why? He didn't receive any praise from you. There is nothing to glory in.
Do you remember King Saul? He was another hypocrite. He was sent on a mission which he failed to complete as God had wanted. Yet in 1 Samuel 15 we see him constructing a monument for himself. This is self-adulation. Saul wanted to be known by all as the conqueror of the Amalekites.
The Greek word for hypocrite means an actor, and that is certainly true of a real hypocrite. Such a person helps the poor, not because he loves them, but because he wants to be seen by men as one who cares for the poor. But, in fact, he hates the poor and has no concern for them. He may throw a coin for them so that he may be seen as a benefactor of the poor, but the whole purpose of his actions is to be seen, recognized, and praised by men. He wants the paper to report what a great philanthropist he is! He is an egoist who loves himself and seeks his own glory by means of everything he says and does.
A hypocrite has no God-consciousness and no regard for God. His life is not regulated by the knowledge of God in any way. He stands in stark contrast to someone like John Calvin who began his Institutes of the Christian Religion by writing about the knowledge of God. To Calvin, the greatest reality in the whole world was the presence of God.
But a hypocrite is oblivious to this greatest reality of the presence of God. All his actions are performed to please himself. He is not interested in the heavenly Father's reward. As a man of this world, he seeks only the reward of other people's applause. But Jesus warns such people in this text: "You will not receive any reward from the Father in heaven." All a hypocrite receives is the praise of men.
God's Reward for Hypocrisy
A hypocrite feigns piety. He will perform religious works, but he is self-centered, not Christ-centered. But hypocrites receive praise only from men. They will never receive praise from God.
In Matthew 7:21-23 we read what God will tell hypocrites: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" This is strong language.
In Matthew 25:41 we read, "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'" That is what hypocrites will hear from God on that day. They will receive no praise at all.
True Christians not only confess Christ, but they also evidence their confession by doing righteousness before their heavenly Father with only one purpose--to please God and be approved by him. Nothing else matters to a true Christian. And they will receive God's approval.
The Command to Give Alms
Jesus said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy." Almsgiving, which is showing mercy to people in need, is commanded in the Scripture. It is not something God said we could do only when we feel like it. In Deuteronomy 15:11 we read, "There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land."
Not only was almsgiving commanded, but it was also practiced by the people of God. When God poured out his Holy Spirit upon the early church, there was great revival. And what did these people do? In Acts 2:44-45 we read, "All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need." No one told these disciples to do such things, but the Spirit of God came upon them and prompted them to do them. This is true revival.
In Acts 4:34-35 we read, "There were no needy persons among them. . ." Now, that does not mean there were never any needy persons among the early believers. There were, but they were taken care of. So we read, "There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need." That demonstrates amazing revival. When God pours the Holy Spirit upon us, the Holy Spirit, in turn, pours out love in abundance, which causes people to do extraordinary things such as selling their own properties so they can take care of their brothers and sisters.
The Secret of Giving
We must acknowledge that people do not give to others in such a self-sacrificing way on their own. What, then, is the secret of such giving? We cannot give in a way that is pleasing to God unless we are delivered from the slavery to ourselves. Through Jesus Christ we must be delivered from self-anchoring, self-reference, self-centeredness, self-pleasing and self-glorying. That is the essence of sin. And when we are saved, we are delivered from such narcissism. We become Christ-centered and Christ-pleasing. Then we glory in Christ and glorify him.
Every Christian who has discovered spiritual riches in Jesus Christ will receive the ability to truly give. Salvation means deliverance from sin, deliverance from self-centeredness and deliverance from all trust in the temporal world. It means realizing that God is our shield and very great reward, as we read in Genesis 15. Then, in turn, this discovery that God is our Savior, our reward, and our center causes us to loosen our grip on money and things, and we give freely. (PGM) In our own church people give generously. Why? We enjoy salvation in Christ. We realize God is our treasure and money is no longer our savior. When we have been redeemed by the Messiah, we understand that giving is a great privilege and blessing.
In Luke 6:38 Jesus said, "Give, and it shall be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap." Many of God's people have practiced this, and they found out that we can never outgive God.
Do you know who gives? Only those who are rich. Poor people cannot give. How, then, do we become rich? In 2 Corinthians 8:9 we read, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." If we discover God as our life and riches, then we can give. That is the secret of true giving.
Motivation for Giving
Why should we perform this righteous act of helping the poor? What should be our motivation? We should give to please God. Hypocrites seek the approval of men but children of God desire God's approval only.
In 2 Timothy 2:15 Paul told Timothy, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed." We need to live all of life for one purpose. What is it? That we may be approved, not by the world or by our neighbor, but by God who sees in secret.
In Romans 16:10 Paul speaks about a person named Apelles. He says, "Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ." What a wonderful commendation! When we stand before God, may he also stamp us "Tested and Approved." By whom are we tested and approved? By God himself--the infinite, almighty, all-sovereign, all-holy, all-righteous, all-seeing God.
As Christians, we do everything in life so that on that day the Lord may tell us what we read in Matthew 25:34: "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.'" In Matthew 7 Jesus told the hypocrites, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" But to those he approves, he will say, "Come!"
That is why we do what is right. One day we have to stand before God and give an account to him. May God help us to live in such a way that on that day we will hear these wonderful words: "Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world."
In Romans 2:5 we read, "But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed." God judges some people. But in verse 10 we read, ". . . but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good." Glory, honor, and peace awaits everyone who does righteousness. That is what we are waiting for.
When you examine the life of Jesus Christ, you clearly see that he came to do the will of the Father and please him. In John 8:29 Jesus said, "I always do what pleases him, meaning God the Father. That was the reason he came. And in John 4:34 Jesus said, "My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work." Jesus did not come seeking his own honor at all. All the time he was seeking the honor of the One who sent him. No wonder God the Father said several times, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."
What more could you want? There is nothing greater than to receive the approval and approbation of our God on that day.
The Cure for Hypocrisy
If we realize that we are hypocrites, how can we cure our hypocrisy? There is a secret that D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones spoke about in his Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. He said that if you practice the presence of God, revival will break out at once.
The cure for all hypocrisy is the realization that God is everywhere. God is in our bedroom, in our workplace, in our hotel room, and in our car. God is everywhere, and Paul recognized this when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:31, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."
May God help us as Christians to realize by faith the real presence of God. We live in God's presence always and all that we do is done in his presence. We think, we speak, we act, and we imagine in the presence of God. All that we do, whether good or evil, is done in the presence of God.
In Genesis 16 we read how Hagar, the servant girl, discovered the real presence of God. In verse 13 we read, "She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: 'You are the God who sees me," meaning the one who saw her all the time. Hagar understood this aspect of God. If we also get this revelation that God always sees us, we will be all right.
In Genesis 17:1 we read, "When Abraham was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, 'I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.'" Only if we have this awareness, this God-consciousness, this understanding of the reality of the presence of God, will we live a blameless life and do righteousness. Why do we sin? It is because we don't see by faith this greatest reality, that we always live and move and have our being in God.
In Genesis 22:7 we read, "Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, 'Father?' 'Yes, my son?' Abraham replied. 'The fire and wood are here,' Isaac said, 'but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?' What did Abraham tell him? Jehovah Jireh, which means God sees. And not only does it mean that God sees, but also that he provides, which he did in this incident. But the main idea here is that God sees. How could Abraham say that? He believed God and spoke by faith.
Practicing the Presence of God
In Genesis 39 we find a classic example of a human being who continually practiced the presence of God. In verse 2 we read, "The Lord was with Joseph and prospered him." Several times in that chapter we read, "The Lord was with him" or "The Lord was with Joseph." Joseph knew God was with him and he lived by faith in that knowledge. He was surrounded by pagans and sinners, but God was with him. Therefore, Joseph did what was right and avoided evil. When Potiphar's wife tried to seduce him, he told her, "How . . . could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" This amazing recognition that he lived before God--this God-consciousness--regulated Joseph's life.
In Psalm 139:7-10 David wrote, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."
We must understand this idea. Revival means that we are brought by faith to the realization that we always live in the presence of God Almighty--the omniscient, omnipresent God--from whom we can never run away. Hebrews 4:13 tells us, "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give an account." God sees everything: it is to him that we must give an account.
In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus told his disciples he had received all authority in heaven and on earth and commissioned them to go into all the world to make disciples. Then what did he tell them? "And surely I am with you always, even to the very end of the age." This is reality, not mythology. God is spirit and he is with us. He promised to be with us and so he is. And when revival comes, we will understand this great reality more sharply than before. This knowledge will regulate our thought, our speech and our actions.
Ephesians 5:18 tells us to be being filled with the Holy Spirit. That is a command of God, not an experience. And if God commands us to do something, that means we can do it. When we by faith are filled with the Spirit of God and realize the great reality of living in the presence of God, we will act in a way pleasing to God. That is the cure for hypocrisy.
Act in Secret
How are we to do these acts of righteousness? In secret. In other words, do not seek the praise of men. Do your acts of kindness, be concerned about your fellow human beings in need and help them as you are able, but do not keep a record of it. Don't refer to it or advertise it. Consider it a privilege if you can help someone, but then forget about it completely.
Why do I say that? Because you do not have to remember these things. There is One who sees in secret. He will remember, and we can trust in him to do so. That is real faith, isn't it? It takes real faith to do good works and then forget about them. But if we are able to do that, that means we are saved. An unbeliever or hypocrite cannot forget. But a believer knows that there is a God who remembers and will not forget. He knows that his heavenly Father who sees in secret will reward him.
God Gives A Reward
What does Jesus mean by reward? First, we must realize that the idea of reward is biblical. Not only does Jesus mention it here, but in Hebrews 11:6 we read, "Anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." So the idea of reward is biblical.
Reward is also a gracious idea. When we give, God rewards us but his reward is a gift. We have done nothing to earn it. We can never go to God and say, "I did some great thing and you must reward me." Why? We give only because we have already received from God. Paul told the Corinthians, "what I received I give unto you." That is the way it is. We receive God's bounty and then we give to others. And yet God remembers our giving and he gives us the gracious gift of a reward.
Jesus Christ believed in the idea of reward. The twelfth chapter of Hebrews tells us how he lived his life on earth, and in verse 2 we read, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who, for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." You see, there was a reward, and he received it.
What is the highest reward God can give us? More money? More things? More power? No. The highest reward God can give us is the reward of himself. Remember what he said to Abraham? "I am your shield, your very great reward" (Gen. 15:1). There is no greater reward than being allowed to see God. There is no better reward than to be told, "Come into the kingdom prepared for you." What is the kingdom of God? Life in God's presence.
Seek God's Reward
Therefore, may we live in such a way that we receive God's reward. Let us seek the approval of God on our lives, because God promises glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good. Even now we can experience it--pressed down, shaken together, running over, and poured into our lap.
Never settle for man's praise. Don't be a hypocrite who does everything only to be seen by men. If you settle for man's praise rather than God's, you are deceiving and cheating yourself. I encourage you today to seek the true reward--the highest possible reward--of seeing God face to face. Amen.
Thank you for reading. If you found this content useful or encouraging, let us know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 1997, P. G. Mathew
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The "NIV" and "New International Version" are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™