New Testament passage for Tuesday, January 7, 2014: Matthew 6:1-24
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. 2 “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. Matthew 6:1-2 (NASB)
The original meaning of hypocrite (Greek hupocrites) was "actor." It was not, in its first usage, necessarily bad. Jesus' teaching in Matt. 6 actually gave depth of meaning that led to our present negative understanding of hypocrisy. Actors in New Testament times wore masks. The mask represented the person they were pretending to be. Jesus warns us against being play-actors wearing masks.
He says that we are not to do our righteous deeds "to be noticed" by men. This word "to be noticed" is the Greek word "theamoi" from which we get theater. Shakespeare wrote in As You Like It,
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,Jesus agrees that the entire world truly is watching (see Matt. 5:16), but He affirms that life is far more than an acting job. It is for real -- and we are to be real.
Few things are as distasteful as hypocrisy. When I sense that someone is a fake -- a poser -- I am inclined to run the other way. You probably are, too.
Hypocrisy is rooted in pride and fear. We want people to respect us, and we fear they will find out who we really are. The words of Jesus call us saying: NO MORE MASKS. Stop trying to impress people with your spirituality. Stop trying to be superior.
Jesus, the Great Liberator, encourages us to humble ourselves before Him, and He will in due time exalt us. That is freedom. That is peace. That is real Christianity.