We get the word “hypocrite” from the Greek of New Testament times. It was used for actors on stage. The word hypocrite meant stage player, pretender and actor. Remember that the First Century would be classified as Near Ancient times. They did not have all the modern equipment used in theatre today. Their props were rather crude, but did the job. As an example, a one person performance would mean the actor / actress would use hand held masks to depict various types of faces … such as happy, sad, angry, scared, etc. The word hypocrite meant that the actor was not the person he or she displayed by the hand held mask in front of the face. When translated into English, the actor is not the person impersonated in the play. We all know that the people who play the bad guys in movies are not necessary bad guys. In the movie they “act out” the part … in real life they might well be decent, good people. As Jesus proceeds with His teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, He introduces the concept of “pretender … hypocrite” in the spiritual realm. This is extremely provocative!
1) God knows the heart of man.
Mt 6:1 “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.
In a general way God is omniscient. He knows everything about everything because He is able to see everything happening throughout all creation all the time. In a specific way He sees all so called religious and spiritual things done by those professing a relationship with Himself. Maybe one of the penetrating verses is the one where Samuel was looking for a man to replace Saul as king
1Sa 16:7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
2) God sees all boastful behavior. Jesus says “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men.” This is the “look at me” syndrome … “I need to be noticed. This is far deeper than the casual need to be noticed by the husband, wife, employer or even trying to make an “image statement”. The idea here is to attract attention to things one does in the name of God to draw attention to self! Don’t think Jesus is contradicting Himself here because of what He said in Matthew 5:
Mt 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Here Jesus is saying we need to allow the Gospel within the saved soul to shine through doing good to all for God’s glory. In Matthew 6:1 it’s all about drawing glory to self … or if you prefer, stealing the glory due to God for self! Everyone is prone to do this … be noticed … but Jesus is speaking about behaving in a religious way, pretending to be someone you are not because all our good deeds are stained with self and sin. The only one whose good deeds were perfect and righteous is the Lord Jesus! One’s “acts of righteousness” done before men are seen by men and might be appreciated and loved … but … Jesus says that is all the reward such people will ever get! To steal glory from God results in If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
(1) At the most basic level this means that in heaven you will not enjoy any rewards from God.
(2) At the deeper level it means you will not enjoy the reward of being in heaven! You will forfeit eternal salvation because you robbed God of glory due to Him alone!
3) God sees all genuine righteous acts that direct glory to Himself. Jesus provides us with practical examples of “acts of righteousness”
Mt 6:2 “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. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
(1) Giving to the needy. Our Lord tells us that
Jn 12:8 You will always have the poor among you.
It is Biblical, Gospel and Christian to give to those who are genuinely needy. As followers of Jesus we need to take care of those in need within the Body of Christ.
(2) When you do, don’t announce it. Don’t let everyone hear and know you helped this one or that one. There are two reasons for this … The first is that you will embarrass those you helped and assisted. The second is that God sees. Surely this is the most important part of you helping those God directs you to help because you are God’s agent to bless and change the environment of someone who is struggling. After all, whatever you have is God’s and you are to be a steward of all God entrusts into your care. This is why giving to the needy requires you identify who you are giving to and exactly what their needs are. You need to be a good servant of the resources God has given to you to manage for Him.
(3) The hypocrites (pretenders, actors) are the Jews … especially the Pharisees … as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. There was nothing spiritual about these people … they were religious but there was no heart change … it was all legalism … and what was done was to draw attention to self. Take the example Jesus uses:
Mt 6:5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.”
We will get here soon … but notice that prayer can be pretense … acting … hypocrisy! These so called religious people were wanting attention, praise … glory because of their “fancy” prayers heard in public places. That is their reward … appreciation by deceived viewers.
(4) Giving needs to be in secret … do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing … in this way no one will know … so that no one will be able to praise you. Only God will know … then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Jesus’ teaching is that whatever you do needs only to be seen by God. In that way He is glorified and you will receive your eternal reward.
Thank You Lord for the possibility of higher righteousness which is possible because of Jesus. Amen.