The Characteristics Of A Hypocrite

November 24, 2014


What is a hypocrite? Pretense to being what one really is not, especially the pretense of being a better person than one really is. The word is based on the Greek hupokrisis, originally meaning to give an answer. A hypocrite in classical Greek could be an interpreter of dreams, an orator, a reciter of poetry, or an actor. Originally a neutral term, “hypocrite” gained the negative connotation of pretense, duplicity, or insincerity. In the Bible the negative meaning prevails. Often hypocrisy refers to evil or sin in general, not pretense in particular. In the OT, “hypocrite” was used by the KJV whereas later translations (e.g., RSV, NIV) often use “godless” or “ungodly” . . . Hypocrisy in the narrower sense of playing a role is highlighted in the NT, especially in the teaching of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus criticized hypocrites for being pious in public (Matt. 6:2,5,16). They were more interested in human praise when they gave alms, prayed, and fasted than in God’s reward. Hypocrites were also guilty of being judgmental of others’ faults and ignoring their own (Matt. 7:1-5). Jesus often called the Pharisees hypocrites because of the conflict between their external actions and internal attitudes (Matt. 15:1-9).

. . . Probably the most famous discussion of hypocrisy is Matt. 23. . . Six times NT writers stress that sincerity (without hypocrisy, anupokritos) should characterize the Christian. Christian love (Rom. 12:9; 2 Cor. 6:6; 1 Pet. 1:22), faith (1 Tim. 1:5; 2 Tim. 1:5), and wisdom (James 3:17) should be sincere. —Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary

  1. A hypocrite is one who does not practice what he preaches. He is one who talks the talk, but does not walk the walk.

Mat 23:1-3  Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,  (2)  Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat:  (3)  All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

  1. A hypocrite is one who espouses a religion of legalism, while ignoring the grace of God.

Mat 23:4  For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

  1. A hypocrite is one who performs his religious practices to be seen of men and gain their recognition.

Mat 23:5-7  But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, 6  And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7  And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.

  1. A hypocrite is one who covets worldly recognition and the titles of this world.

Mat 23:8-10  But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. 9  And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10  Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.

  1. A hypocrite is one who seeks to put himself first and others last.

Mat 23:11-12  But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12  And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

  1. A hypocrite is one whose testimony is a stumbling block, which hinders others from getting saved.

Mat 23:13  But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

  1. A hypocrite is one who motivates sympathetic souls to excessive giving, while refusing to give anything themselves.

Mat 23:14  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.

Devour widows’ houses – The word “houses” is used here to denote “property” or possessions of any kind. You take away or get possession of the property of widows by improper arts and pretences. This was done in two ways:

  1. They claimed a very exact knowledge of the law and a perfect observance of it. They pretended to extraordinary justice toward the poor, friendship for the distressed, and willingness to aid those who were in embarrassed circumstances. They thus induced “widows” and poor people to commit the management of their property to them as guardians and executors, and then took advantage of them and defrauded them.
  2. They put on the appearance of great sanctity, and induced many conscientious but credulous women to give them much, under pretence of devoting it to religious purposes. –Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible
  3. A hypocrite seeks to increase the number of those who follow him, through “easy believism” neglecting the need for genuine conversion and true discipleship.

Mat 23:15  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

The Jewish writers themselves say that the proselytes were “scabs of Israel,” and “hindered the coming of the Messiah” by their great wickedness. The Pharisees gained them either to swell their own numbers, or to make gain by extorting their money under various pretences; and when they had accomplished that, they took no pains to instruct them or to restrain them. –Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible


  1. A hypocrite is one who makes promises (vows) to God, which he has no intention of keeping

Mat 23:16-22  Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!  (17)  Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?  (18)  And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.  (19)  Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift.

When taking oaths, they made fine lines of distinction that could possibly invalidate their oaths. If one swore by the temple, or by the altar of the temple, it meant nothing to them. While thus appearing to be making a binding oath, they inwardly had no intention of keeping it. But if one swore by the gold of the temple or the gift on the altar, he would be bound by the oath. But Jesus said they were wrong in suggesting that gold was greater than the temple and a gift greater than the altar.   –Walvoord, Bible Knowledge Commentary

  1. A hypocrite is one who promotes ritualism without reality and majors in the minors of the Christian life

Mat 23:23, 24  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. 24  Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

The fifth woe is against ritualism without reality. The scribes and Pharisees were meticulous in giving the Lord a tenth of the most insignificant herbs they raised. Jesus did not condemn them for this care about small details of obedience, but He excoriated them for being utterly unscrupulous when it came to showing justice, mercy, and faithfulness to others. Using a figure of speech unsurpassed for expressiveness, Jesus described them as straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel. –Wm. MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentar

  1. A hypocrite is one who emphasizes external appearances, while neglecting the importance of inward realities.

Mat 23:25-28  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.  (26)  Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.  (27)  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.  (28)  Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

  1. A hypocrite is one who, while appearing to be religious, rejects the gospel and the grace of God.

Mat 23:29-36  Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,  (30)  And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.  (31)  Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.  (32)  Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.  (33)  Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?  (34)  Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:  (35)  That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.  (36)  Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.

  1. A hypocrite is one who will ultimately acknowledge the Lordship of Christ, when He returns, but it will to be late for him to get saved

Mat 23:37  O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! 38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. 39  For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

Php 2:9-11  Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:  (10)  That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;  (11)  And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This article was written by Rev. Richard Brosseau


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