What Hypocrites Do

In Lent 23 by Bruce LogueLeave a Comment

When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Matthew 6:2-4

Jesus accuses some people of being hypocrites.

Hypocrite comes from a Greek word, hupocrisis, which means “to pretend, to act hypocritically or with pretense and hypocrisy.” This word was used in the Greek theatre to name the mask that actors wore to convey a specific character, male or female. The mask wasn’t the real person wearing it, just a pretending to be that character.

Therefore, to be a hypocrite is to wear a mask. To be someone that you aren’t in reality. You can imagine how this works in a corporate United Way giving drive. The employer puts pressure on the employees to give to UW. But the employee doesn’t want to give up his hard-earned money, however, s/he puts on a fake smile to please the boss. Wearing a mask.

Jesus’ command to give also extends to all forms of giving. Hypocrisy is never appropriate for a disciple of Jesus. In 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, Paul tells the Corinthians that their giving should be marked by three things that eliminate hypocrisy.

  • The first is generosity. By definition, generosity is a sincere attitude. Not faked. Willing. Kind or responsive to need. It does not come from selfish motives.
  • Second, this giving is because of a settled mind. The giving has been considered and decided upon. It comes from a generous spirit.
  • Third, this giving is cheerful. Giving that is coerced is not cheerful.

On the surface, a gift seems like a gift. Like in the case of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11 who told one story when they gave a financial gift to the Jerusalem church to help impoverished widows, but whose story fell apart when further questioned. Jesus said that God knows what your motive is.

Jesus said to give in secret so as to keep your motive pure. The gift is then given for the sake of the good that is done rather than for the applause of people. And then you have the approval of God which is of eternal benefit.

Prayer: O Lord, John told us that you loved humanity so much, you gave your only Son for our redemption. We want to be like that. To be generous in our gifts and sincere in our motives. Give us a generous heart and may we give without coertion. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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