Did you know that the word hypocrite came from the ancient Greek word hypokrites, which means “an actor” or “a stage player” – it could even be translated ‘pretender’?  In the 13th century its meaning changed, and hypocrite was then used to refer to “someone who pretends to be morally good or pious in order to deceive others.” Today hypocrite refers to “a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.” (Merriam-Webster).  When we read Jesus’ teachings on hypocrites we must be careful not to place our modern definition over the original meaning.

When Jesus called some of the Pharisees hypocrites, he was labelling them pretenders and actors.  Actors, lost in their own pretence, wanting to put on a good show to receive applause from the crowd.  Jesus labelled them foolish and blind guides (Matt 23:16,17,19,24,26). They angered Jesus because their pretending had lethal consequences for those around them.

woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” (Matt 23:13)

We must not be pretenders because we are guides to the Kingdom.  Our authenticity is the window through which others can see the power of the kingdom on a broken person. We are all broken but are made strong at the broken places by Jesus’ forgiveness, love and grace. Let’s share authentically with one another! Let’s pray and act for the approval and applause of Christ alone! Let’s keep Church real!

Denis Oliver