As often as we hear outsiders and unbelievers talk about hypocrites in the church, we might think it should be a huge subject in the Bible, but that is not the case. The word “hypocrisy” is found once in the Old Testament and five times in the New Testament. The more common “hypocrite” is only used eight times in the Old Testament and three times in the New. And it surprised me that verse 9 is the only use of either word in Proverbs. More trivia on the subject relates to the two people who use these words most often – Christ speaks these words six times and so does the Book of Job. And one more point, of which I have told you before,“hupokrites” (hoop-ok-ree-tace’) was the first word the Greeks used to speak of “stage players” or “actors.” A hypocrite is an actor, playing a role – a fake, a fraud, a deceiver. And most of the time, everyone knows it.
Despite its relative rarity in the Bible, and especially in Proverbs, let’s use this verse as an incentive to address the subject of hypocrisy. It really is a problem among church people and even among Christians. And the Bible condemns it as we see here. “An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour.” What else does the Holy Spirit tell us about hypocrisy?
First, Hypocrisy is rarely a stand-alone sin.
This is true of most kinds of sin, but it’s particularly true in this case. “An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour” – doesn’t that speak of at least two sins? One particularly heinous example of hypocrisy involved David’s sin with Bathsheba. At first David hypocritically pretended innocence. But his guilt was huge and multifaceted. There was lust, adultery, broken trust with his family, the corruption of Joab, putting Israel’s army at risk, murder and a number of other things. Throughout most of it, David was acting – pretending – to be an innocent bystander. His hypocrisy was linked to other sins. And with his actions, orders, authority and wretchedness he destroyed a loyal neighbor – Uriah.
Hypocrisy is a sin which never stands on its own; it never stands alone. In fact, hypocrisy can’t really stand at all – eventually it crumbles. The HMS Queen Mary was for a short time the largest ocean liner in the world. It was launched in 1936 as a luxury cruise ship, but carried thousands of soldiers during the war. That may be considered hypocrisy, but there was no deception in it, so it probably doesn’t quality. After four decades of service it was retired to Long Beach, Calif. to serve as a floating hotel and museum. During the conversion, her three massive smokestacks were removed, to be scraped down and repainted. But on the dock they crumbled into a pile of scrap. They had been originally made of 3/4 inch steel plate, but after 40 years, rust had eaten the metal away. The only thing that kept them from ruin was about 40 coats of paint. Not only is hypocrisy linked to other sins, it can’t even stand without those other sins to hold it up
Hypocrisy is particularly evil because it usually involves our relationship to God.
Again I point to David. He was made king of Israel by the grace of God. He was a husband, a father, the Lord’s Psalmist, and a prophet because of the grace of God. And his hypocrisy was a slap in the face of the omniscient God and His grace.
Why is “hypocrisy” a word usually out of place in any context except religion? That is a shame, because it fits a great many situations. Why isn’t the woman reading her book while sitting at the baseball game called “a hypocrite?” Why isn’t the man watching the baseball game on his phone while sitting at the opera next to his wife, “a hypocrite?” Why is it that the only time people use the word is when they are talking about you and me?
Because that seems to be the place where God puts it. Destruction stands in “the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite’s hope shall perish.” “An hypocrite shall not come before (God).” “The vile person will speak villany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practise hypocrisy, and to utter error against the LORD…” “Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but (but God’s knows) within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” Christ Jesus, “knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it.” “What is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul?”
The patron saint of hypocrites has to be the Apostle Judas Iscariot. Judas was the epitome – the quintessence – of the hypocrite. He was a preacher, an apostle, and an officer in Christ’s first church. He suffered the attacks and the mocking of the crowds just as much as did James or John. He carried the gospel with other team members, preparing the way for the Lord. He suffered loss and hunger from time to time. He experienced the Lord’s miracles. Yet all the while Judas was a rebel, a play actor, and a reprobate. What makes him the king of the hypocrites was his proximity to the Saviour. Only eternity will reveal how much spiritual damage that man caused. “An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour.”
The hypocrite mocks God in his Christian duties and activities. He may put cash in the offering, pretending to tithe or to care about the furtherance of the ministry. With that gift he hopes to deceive others who might be watching, including the Lord. And he hopes that God doesn’t know how to figure the tenth of his income. He might speak to the lost man, telling him that God hates sin enough to have sent his Son to die for it. But it is always the other guy’s sin that is so bad – not his own. The Lord Jesus walked from Bethany to Jerusalem one early Spring morning. And He saw a leafy fig tree by the side of the road off there in the distance. He and the others were hungry; they were already thinking about the wonderfully sweet fruit of the fig tree. But when they came to the foot of the tree, it was obvious that the tree had tried to deceive them. With its big healthy leaves it promised fruit, but it was all a lie. The duty of fruit trees is fruit, and this one didn’t deserve to live because it was living a lie. The hypocrite attends the Lord’s House but has no intention of applying the Lord’s message of that day. The hypocrite is like the painted sepulcher wearing this Sunday best, but inside his heart is a cave of dead mens’ bones. He picks up the hymn book and mouths the words to the songs, but his heart is far from him. The hypocrite mocks the Lord in pretending to be a part of the ministry.
The fact is, hypocrisy will not be left unpunished by God.
Eliphas, Bildad and Zophar sat around the ash pile declaring that Job was a hypocrite. Their neighbor denied their charges, but he agreed that any hypocrite is a fool. Because the judgment of God is guaranteed for such a person. Job 8:13 – The hypocrites’ hope shall perish. Job 13:16 – The hypocrite shall not come before God. Job 15:34 – The congregation of hypocrites shall be desolate. Job 20:5 – The joy of the hypocrite is but for a moment.
This does not mean that some good can’t come out of the life of a hypocritical person. There may have been Galileans who turned to the Lord through the preaching of Judas. And someone might say that “so-and-so” is a good Hollywood actor. Someone might learn something positive from a role that this man has played. Someone else might laugh at a film in which he starred. But the man is only an actor, a professional hypocrite. He is not the person who he pretends to be in those movies. And a religious hypocrite might do some good for the work of the Lord. But that doesn’t mean he himself will take part in those blessings or in the rewards.
He is not the person he claims to be. He will be judged for the person that he really is, not the roll that he is playing. And for every blessing the hypocrite might convey, there are ten times as many negative results. “An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour.”