Avoiding the deception of hypocrisy

Hypocrisy is denounced by Yeshua in the context of using fair standards for critically, yet constructively, helping others.

Core of the Bible podcast #24- Avoiding the deception of hypocrisy

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of integrity, and how people of integrity understand and avoid the dangers and deception of hypocrisy.

Yeshua stated it this way: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5

In other words, the basic takeaway is: Don’t be hypocritical.

But did you know there is actually more to this passage than just that? This admonition falls within the larger context of Yeshua’s teaching of judgment of others. Everyone is really good at quoting Matt.7:1 when they are attempting to defend something they are doing that is viewed critically by others:

Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.

“See,” they will say, “you shouldn’t judge others.”

Well, yes and no.

If we are finding ourselves critical of others, it is definitely safer to not pass judgment, as Yeshua points out. However, the next verse has an interesting facet to it:

Matthew 7:2 “For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.

Yeshua seems to be focusing not as much on the act of judgment itself, but the standard by which one is judging others. Is it a fair standard? He then elaborates that thought with our spotlight verses today:

Matthew 7:3-5 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”

Ah, now we have the nugget of wisdom. Yeshua is saying that, in order to remove the speck in our friend’s eye, that is, in order to judge them fairly and help them, we need to ensure we have no logs in our own. Then we will see well enough in order to be a fair judge of our friends. Otherwise, if we are not willing to remove the log in our own eye, then we should not judge at all, or we will be judged.

That’s a little different meaning than you may be used to, isn’t it?

You see, it’s very easy for believers today to remove themselves from all controversy by simply saying, “I’m not one to judge,” thinking they are upholding Matt. 7:1. However, what they are really doing is going against the meaning of the passage, as Yeshua’s main point is NOT the “not judging,” but the “seeing clearly” to provide fair judgment. Because when we provide fair judgment, we are representing God’s interests in this world in a way that honors him.

God has charged his people with dominion over all things.

Genesis 1:28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

In the creation story, after Adam and Eve have partaken of the tree, he says, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil…” This ability for man to discern critically between right and wrong is in one sense how we have been created in God’s image.

Genesis 3:6 …the woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom…

See, Eve was thinking all of these very critical thoughts prior to taking the fruit; the fruit did not give her the capacity to think critically, it was already inherent within her.

The symbolism of the story is that the discerning ability of man was corrupted by the desires of the flesh: a craving for food, a preoccupation with beauty and form, and a curiosity for secret wisdom outside of God’s allotted provision.

Being created in God’s image, man has natural tendencies to judge between right and wrong. However, the story of Adam and Eve illustrates how living in this world skews those natural tendencies toward potentially harmful outcomes. She was seduced by the serpent, representing fleshly desires which are adversarial to God and his purpose. The wisdom of God becomes eclipsed by what confronts us by our senses in the natural world, and we lose sight of his righteous standards.

Therefore, Yeshua says we many times end up with these “logs” in our eyes, where we get caught up in the fleshly standards of the world, and we can no longer see clearly to correctly discern between right and wrong. In this state, we are unable to be of real assistance to those around us in need. And as believers, if we remain oblivious to our shortcomings, we then begin to act hypocritically saying we believe one thing while doing another, and thereby defaming the Name of God.

If we end up defaming his name, this is actually a violation of the third commandment: “Do not take the name of Yahweh in vain, or to no purpose.” Remember, our goal is to faithfully represent him in this world, since we have been created in his image. I believe that this is one of the main reasons why Yeshua is so emphatic that we avoid hypocrisy at all cost.

What I find fascinating is that hypocrisy is readily understood by all people. No matter a person’s social standing or culture, hypocritical actions are the basis of lost trust, strained work relations, and broken friendships. Within each individual there must be a built-in, deep desire for fairness and justice, otherwise hypocrisy in and of itself would be meaningless. Recognizing hypocritical actions demonstrates how all people, regardless of religious beliefs or backgrounds have the ability to discern a measure of rightness or equity. This is part of who we have been created to be, a type of moral and spiritual DNA that is evident in each person.

The driving factor of hypocrisy tends to be selfish preservation.

While I was recently reading an article regarding hypocrisy, the comments of the author, a neuroscientist Phd by the name of Erman Misirlisoy over at medium.com, caught my attention as it relates to this topic. He states it this way:

“Self-interest is the most obvious reason for any of us to act like hypocrites. When people are questioned about why they act in conflict with their own stated moral standards, many will say that the personal costs are enough to outweigh the intention to act morally. Essentially, we all want to act fairly until we are put on the spot and are facing our own personal consequences.”

Makes sense; after all, who wants to be accountable for getting caught at doing something we have openly condemned in others?

The kicker is, as Misirlisoy continues, that hypocrites are actually judged more harshly than flat out liars, and he provides a possible reason why.

“One strong explanation relates to false signaling. In essence, hypocrites employ a double layer of deception in their immoral acts — one more layer than the basic liars who simply say they’ve acted morally when they haven’t. When we hypocritically condemn someone’s immoral behavior, we disguise our personal misbehavior with a veil of persuasiveness or manipulation. It’s easier to see through an outright lie than a hypocrite’s condemnation. On top of that, a hypocrite has brought another person into the game. Instead of directly denying their immorality, the hypocrite sneakily implies they are good by attempting to shame someone else. This is a recipe for hatred when caught out…Overall, it backs up the idea that we have a greater tolerance for liars than we have for hypocrites. Hypocrites are like a special type of liar who puts extra effort into disguising their misbehavior and sending us false signals of moral superiority. Those false signals drive our contempt.”

When someone doesn’t hold themselves to the same standards they expect of others, they reveal a moral deficiency that invalidates their position. They can become blinded to the true state of any given situation, and then callously pursue their own agenda.

This is why this practice is so strongly condemned by Yeshua. He openly called out the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. In the 23rd chapter of Matthew, he publicly called them hypocrites at least 8 times in front of the assembled crowd and his disciples.

Matthew 23:13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.

This passage in full shows the depth of Yeshua’s passionate contempt for the duplicity of the religious leaders and their disdain for the truth of God’s Word.

He also cautioned his disciples to recognize and avoid this characteristic of the religious leaders.

Luke 12:1  … He began saying to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”

The disciples then picked up this recognition of hypocrisy and continued to caution the early believers from falling into the same trap.

Romans 12:9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

James 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.

1 Peter 2:1-3 Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.

Hypocrisy undermines the integrity of those who exemplify it.

This is why it is critical that we as believers maintain a consistent and honest walk in all matters of any moral depth. It is only when we ensure we have no logs in our own eyes, then we will be able to see clearly to take the speck out of someone else’s eye.

Additionally, our ability to maintain our integrity reflects on the One whom we represent, and the kingdom he is establishing. When our integrity is intact, we then have the clarity of vision to keep our own way pure, and also to provide that exemplary guidance as a light to others.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

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