Christ rejects hypocrisy and rebuked people against hypocrisy on several occasions. He rebuked people that presented themselves as worshiping God but were more concerned about promoting their authority or self-interest, people that asked questions to show off their knowledge instead of seeking to improve understanding, or people that focused on condemning others. We discuss his teaching on hypocrisy and examine circumstances in which he rebuked people against hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy refers to a person’s motivation for an act of worship or righteousness. Is the action motivated by an understanding of God’s purpose in a given situation and desire to fulfill the purpose? Is one motivated by a desire to be recognized and admired or respected by other people? Hypocrisy could manifest in terms of a person professing a belief but their actions are inconsistent with what they profess. Also, hypocrisy could manifest in terms of self-righteousness, resulting in looking down on and judging others but failing to apply same rules and standards to self. Hypocrisy in worship often manifests as play acting, working behind a “mask,” and in general pretending to be something that the person really isn’t.
Christ’s teaching on hypocrisy could be summarized into a simple message: An act of worship or righteousness pleases God if it is motivated by a desire to worship him or serve people to fulfill his purpose. In contrast, an act of worship or righteousness does not please God if it is motivated by self-promotion, seeking human recognition, or any purpose other than serving God.
In this bible study, we discuss Christ’s teaching on humility through three interactions: first, an interaction with his disciples, when he presented a child as an exemplification of humility and declared that “whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” [Matthew 18:4, NKJV]; second, an interaction with fellow guests at a dinner, where he explained that people should refrain from assigning themselves to seats of honor, to avoid potential demotion by the host, for “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” [Luke 14:11, NKJV]; and third, an interaction with his disciples and a large audience during the Sermon on the Mount.
Humility conveys a message that a person is available and willing to provide or accept assistance as needed. It sets up an environment for fulfilling God’s purpose of mutual provider-receiver relationships among people, whereby every person is potentially a provider sometimes and receiver at other times. Humility conveys a person as predisposed to appreciate other people as potential providers of human service and willing to perform services to benefit others. Therefore, a person’s humility conveys Godliness to others and motivates them to do the same. God creates every person to be humble, expects and rewards humility, but punishes haughtiness.
In the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5–7], Christ delivered an elaborate teaching on living in the image of God: i.e., living and interacting with people for the purpose of representing God in everything we do and accomplishing the objectives that he places on our paths. The teaching consists of two parts. First, he provided a set of eight principles for living in the image of God, which are known today in Christianity as The Beatitudes. Second, he described the essence of living in the image of God using examples from everyday life. We discussed the Beatitudes (first part of the Sermon on the Mount) in Part 1 of this study at This_Link. This week, our discussion focuses on the second part of the Sermon on the Mount.