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Put Away Hypocrisy – Part 2




In Part 1, we learned that hypocrisy is putting on a mask and pretending to be righteous or pure or loving when your heart is unrighteous, impure, and unloving. For example, false teachers are hypocrites: they “come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15).[1] They appear sheep-like, but in reality are wolf-like.

Judas, the one who betrayed the Lord, also provides us with an example of hypocrisy. At the dinner party where Mary anointed Jesus with costly ointment, Judas complained, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (John 12:5) On the surface, Judas is expressing concern for the poor. But in reality Judas had no such concern: “He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.” (John 12:6) 

Frankly, the world is full of hypocritical ‘false fronts’ that cover or facilitate hidden and wicked agendas. This comes right out of the serpent’s playbook: “… even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). 

In contrast to the illusions, shadows and double-dealing of the world system, we are called by God into reality, into truth, into light: “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.” (John 12:46)

The purpose of today’s reflection is to make it clear from Scripture that we are called to live righteously from the heart. Unlike the Pharisees who appeared righteous but were unrighteous on the inside, we are called to be righteous on the inside and consequently display visible righteous fruit on the outside. God desires that our righteousness be visible (for example, see Matthew 5:14-16, John 13:35, Romans 12:17, Philippians 2:14-15), but this visible righteousness must be the good fruit of righteous hearts.

Of course, the great challenge that we must consider is how human beings with sinful hearts can become the sort of people who display visible righteousness from righteous hearts – and we will explore this in Part 3 (and maybe in a Part 4, too!). But in the remainder of Part 2, I simply want to show you that God calls you to live righteously from the heart.

We Need to Hear This

If living rightly from the heart came easy to us, then perhaps the Bible wouldn’t have said much about it. But ‘heart righteousness’ doesn’t come easy to us sinners, and hypocritical (external-only) righteousness is a snare that sinners easily fall into. So, we need this instruction! Now let’s consider several Scriptural passages on the subject.

From the Heart

First, there are passages that specifically call us do rightly ‘from the heart’:

“So also my heavenly Father will [severely punish] every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:35, italics added)

“But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed” (Romans 6:17, italics added).

“Whatever you [servants of earthly masters] do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23, italics added).

“So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the name of the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22, italics added). 

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22, italics added; see also 1 Timothy 1:5).

The visible acts of forgiving those who have wronged us, obeying the truth, working diligently on our assigned tasks, calling on the Lord’s name, and demonstrating love for other people must be done ‘from the heart’ – and, given the possibility of an impure heart, it is important to clarify that these things must actually be done “from a pure heart” (1 Timothy 1:5, 2 Timothy 2:22).

Genuine and Sincere

Second, in addition to passages that specifically direct us to act ‘from the heart’, there are other passages that direct us to act genuinely or sincerely (also in 1 Peter 1:22 above). These three concepts are basically synonymous: to ‘act from the heart’ and to ‘act genuinely’ and to ‘act with a sincere heart’ are three different ways of saying the same thing. Hypocrisy, by its very nature, is disingenuous and insincere. To live unhypocritically is to live consistently with who we really are, to be genuine and sincere, to let our actions correspond to our attitudes. Scripture says:

“Let love be genuine.” (Romans 12:9, italics added)

“… as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: … by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love” (2 Corinthians 6:4-6, italics added).

“I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.” (2 Corinthians 8:8, italics added)

"Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear a trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ” (Ephesians 6:5, italics added). 

“For I have no one like him [Timothy], who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.” (Philippians 2:20, italics added).

Whether demonstrating love and concern for other people or rendering obedience to our earthly masters, our actions must be genuine and sincere. Our actions must be the visible expression of what is actually going on in our hearts. We must not be grumbling in our heart while we are running an errand for our boss or helping our neighbor with a task.

The Transformation of the Heart

Third, large chunks of biblical instruction are built on the foundation of internal heart transformation.

The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7) is a powerful summary of the Lord’s teaching for His disciples. How does the instruction begin? “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Three verses later: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Two verses later: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:3, 6, 8) In the sermon, Jesus addresses a range of topics, but the way that the sermon begins shows us that discipleship begins in the heart (and this principle is reiterated throughout the Sermon on the Mount).

Similarly, the apostle Paul gives instruction about the practical Christian life in Romans 12:1–15:13. How does the instruction begin? This way: 

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

The “therefore” in verse 1 roots the practical instruction in the sound doctrine of Romans 1–11. God intends for sound doctrine to shape our lives – but the shaping must begin in the heart and mind. Thus the command to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind” in verse 2 shows us that obedience to the forthcoming instructions – instructions about ministry within the church (Romans 12:3-8), relationships within the church (Romans 12:9-13), relationships with outsiders and particularly with enemies (Romans 12:14-21), relating to the government (Romans 13:1-7), the basic duties of the Christian life (Romans 13:8-14), and relating to fellow believers when there is disagreement on important but secondary issues (Romans 14:1–15:7) – obedience to these instructions must flow from a renewed mind. Then comes a prayerful blessing that God would “fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13), which again points to what is happening in the believer’s heart. 

A Final Word

If we wanted to take the time, we could fill up page after page of Scriptural passages that drive home the same idea, namely, that the only kind of human righteousness that pleases God is righteousness that is first of all located in the heart, and which then bears fruit in righteous deeds. When this happens, it is like a healthy tree (internal reality) bearing good fruit (visible manifestation of the internal reality) (Matthew 7:17). Such fruit doesn’t merely appear good but actually is good – and this good fruit spreads the fragrance of life, is sweet to the taste, benefits other people, and honors our Lord.

In light of all this, we must pray for divine grace, which alone enables us to walk in the light:

“Incline my heart to your testimonies, 

and not to selfish gain!

Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;

and give me life in your ways.” (Psalm 119:36-37)

May it be so!



[1] Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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