Hypocrisy implies pretending to be one thing, yet actually being the other. In other words, this can also be described as duplicity. Hypocrisy is not necessarily only found in Christianity. It is dominant even among various other social groupings. Imagine, driving behind a fellow who indicates turning right, when actually turning left? Nothing is as frustrating as dealing with such characters.
Apparently, the story of Jesus reveals that it was hypocrisy that kept Him occupied—as leading to His crucifixion. The existence of hypocrisy is clearly manifest in the fragmentation of Christianity. This is typical among those sitting in comfort of being perceived as right where others would be perceived as wrong.
A person may actually be right where others are wrong. But as long as critical of others, the person projects hypocrisy. The question that ought to be asked is: If the other person commits what is viewed as wrong, whose responsibility would that be? Without hesitation, the viewpoint of a hypocrite states that the one regarded as wrong, carries responsibility.
However, when not a hypocrite, one takes full responsibility on other people’s wrong-doing. This spells reason why Jesus sternly rebuked Peter: “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men”Matthew 16:23) (NIV).
When carefully analysing what caused Peter to say what earned him such stern rebuke—one sees hypocrisy. Having identified the Christ in Jesus, Peter had assumed being superior to others. But how does Peter’s viewpoint make him a hypocrite? The answer to this question is extremely important, as Peter’s behaviour is common with ordinary Christians.
For Peter to be on Jesus’ side, was it by his own wisdom, or by God’s grace? If by his own wisdom; that would have bestowed responsibility on Peter. True wisdom starts with appreciating that all human beings were created in God’s image. A wise person takes responsibility to help others out of their conundrums.
With that kind of wisdom, the person engages in programs that shed light among the confused. This is as the confusion of others affects the enlightened ones as well. As applying his acquired wisdom, what did Peter do to help those still hooked in sinfulness—according to the golden rule? “Do unto others as you would like them do unto you.”
But, if Peter’s answer assumes that his knowledge came by God’s grace—how then does he have the temerity to condemn those without God’s grace? The captivated rebuke of Peter’s behaviour—by Jesus—reveals comparison between things of God and things of men.
Apparently, the things of men had been projected in Peter’s behaviour. Hypocrisy distinguishes between friends and foes. But hypocrisy can also be found in pretending not to be a hypocrite when actually being one.
Our sinful world can be most dangerous for true Christians. This is why Jesus and His disciples were murdered. The instigators, were not necessarily the affirmed murderers, or blatant sinners. Jesus was killed by the most respected people in society. In other words, Jesus was murdered by hypocrites.
This reality is clearly exposed in Matthew 7:1-4 “Do not judge. Or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?”(NIV).
In modern-day Christianity, this passage of Scripture is not relevant. Otherwise we would not have thousands of denominations, serving to condemn one another, yet proclaiming to be followers of Christ? The key lies in: “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?”
There is difference between a speck and a plank—which the multitudes of Christians, all along, have failed to comprehend. A speck implies a chip that, naturally, comes from a plank. In other words, it is impossible to have a chip without a plank or log. A chip manifests the existence of a plank or log.
As long as a plank exists, the chip would always manifest, one way or the other. The one who judges another person carries a plank, rather than a chip—as observed in a person being judged. Why so? Because knowledge is power.
But knowledge can also be dangerous—specifically against those with knowledge. Ignorant people are safe—as long as admitting being ignorant. Yet ignorant people turn out to be most dangerous—when assuming to be knowledgeable. Jesus was murdered by those assuming being knowledgeable, yet being totally ignorant.
Those assuming and admitting being ignorant could not have done such a horrendous thing as to murder their own Messiah. The ignorant people could be sinful in every sense, but unknowingly. However, their behaviour constitutes what Jesus described as speck, rather than plank.
The Pharisees who murdered Jesus manifested—but just specks in their own eyes—according to Jesus’ viewpoint. Where was the plank? Unbelievably to most people, the plank was with the knowledgeable person. In this case, who was the knowledgeable person at that time? Who else—other than Jesus?
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written; ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit (Galatians 3:13-14) (NIV).
There we have it! A person with knowledge—as able to see the wrongness of others—carries the plank, rather than the speck. Jesus had knowledge—as to pay dearly—dying on the cross for the sins of humanity. As carrying specks, whose plank was borne by Jesus—humanity deserved deliverance. To those privileged with similar knowledge, John declared:
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers”(1 John 3:16) (NIV).
What this means is that knowledge is not necessarily a privilege to those having received it. It has all along been assumed that knowledge implies privilege, over the ignorant people. But this has been advanced by the chief instigator, as clearly perceived by Jesus on Peter: “Get behind me Satan!” Jesus was not attacking Peter, necessarily. He knew the actual instigator of sinfulness.
Humanity is caught up in failure to know that the identified culprit cannot do anything without using physical humanity. The cause of rebuke on Peter, had resulted from Peter’s superior knowledge, as facilitated by Christ. Bear in mind that flesh and blood had not revealed Peter’s knowledge (Matthew 16:17).
Humanly speaking, the knowledge revealed to Peter incurs some sentiment of privilege over others. But this type of knowledge does not necessarily imply privileged advantage over others. Instead of feeling good, Peter ought to have been depressed. See [The only time a Christian needs to be depressed].
Since the time of Adam, humanity has been languishing under the yoke of sin. As well-known—sin was imposed by the character that—immediately attempted to manipulate Peter—after Peter’s display of superior knowledge over others. But, those without the knowledge displayed by Peter, remained safe.
Peter would also have remained safe, had he not assumed that his ability to identify the Christ in Jesus meant being superior over others. Peter’s hypocrisy was exposed in trying to manipulate knowledge that flesh and blood could not reveal—projecting it across, as his own.
The knowledge that Peter had been commended with, attracted the assumption of being superior to those without. But receiving knowledge from God, bestows responsibility on the recipient. This is why Jesus kept emphasizing that the great among His disciples would be servants of all. Nevertheless, hypocrisy is commonly projected in four levels, as itemized below:
The first level of hypocrisy is characterized in government Intelligence systems. These comprise Secretive individuals used by governments. In Zimbabwe these comprise what is commonly known as CIO (Central Intelligence Organization) staff. They operate under cover. In other words they pretend to be one thing, and yet being something else. Those perceived as enemies of sitting governments are the ones who commonly fall prey to such operatives.
Such people pretend to be loyal members of the organizations they identify with—yet being agents of their principals. While pretending to be loyal members, they harbour sinister motives. As secretive in their operations, they fully identify with the environment. This is acceptable in our sinful world.
Judas Iscariot can be cited as an appropriate example of how such characters operate. While Jesus was privileged to know Judas’ intentions, ordinary people could have continued to treat Judas as one of key figures, among the twelve disciples. In first level, the hypocrite operates with full knowledge of being a traitor—thereby receiving remuneration for such sinister behaviour.
The second level of hypocrisy is found across the authoritarian world. This level of hypocrisy is characterized in those assuming to be preservers of law and order. They can be very good at interpreting laws—thereby being perceived as accurately dealing with those disdainfully considered as law-breakers.
Their duplicity is in that while commendably administering justice on others, dealing with their own shortcomings remains unchecked. They can be very good at projecting their integrity to the general public—who also idolise them.
But their duplicity is in skirting over their own known or unknown shortcomings. In Jesus’ time, these were the Pharisees—ordinarily viewed as good law-keepers. Such behaviour is common—even in our ordinary justice system—including, as well-known among Christian practitioners.
As noticed, the first level hypocrisy is blatantly treacherous. But as practiced in second level—hypocrisy comprises those not even conscious of being hypocritical. Though hypocritical, secretive operations are considered normal, in first level. Yet in second level—hypocrisy appears as considered dehumanising as to be basically shunned.
Those in second level of hypocrisy can be very astute in defending themselves. They may even be able to perceive hypocrisy being committed by others. Yet finding it impossible to perceive hypocrisy being committed by themselves. This, basically, is the common behaviour of humanity.
This is what causes marital dissonances and other forms of disunity, as affecting, virtually, all social institutions. All challenges, as adopted through educational systems, emanate from hypocrisy of this nature. People are compared according to established authoritarian standards—thereby, being categorized according to authoritarian rankings.
A person gets rewarded for meeting standards of those in authority—or alternatively, being degraded for failure to meet those standards. Yet, even common sense dictates that humanity cannot be compared—one to the other. Hypocrites cannot appreciate that each individual is peculiar—as not to be compared with anyone. See [What’s in a title, if not to deceive?].
It takes God’s miracle to be aware of one’s own hypocrisy, as portrayed in second level. This is because everyone wants to be perceived as good—rather than being perceived as bad. Everyone tries to impress, more than expressing themselves for who they really would be. Christian organizations bear such pretenders in abundance. See [Christianity serves to invalidate God’s Kingdom].
This level of hypocrisy is not easily distinguishable, as inducing comfort in authoritarian protection. It projects the wide gate insinuated by Jesus: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”(Matthew 7:13-14) (NIV).
The third level of hypocrisy is portrayed in partisanship. This describes what is commonly referred to as racism, tribalism, or any identity in terms of partisan groupings. Anyone who does not belong to the person’s group is viewed as enemy. This explains the phenomenon of political violence, especially as found to be common in African political structures.
On being rebuked by Jesus, Peter was probably projecting this type of hypocrisy. Out of hypocrisy, partisan characters are prepared to die for their own—regardless of whether those being protected are right or wrong. Their urge is to instinctively protect those identifying with them—regardless of underlying details.
Obviously the danger remains in that the other group behaves similarly, for those of their own. This is generally what causes unending wars in this world—with well documented evil effects. Anyone found to be holding a different opinion is categorized as an enemy.
But that cannot always be the case, necessarily—as the other person may simply be perceiving things differently. The story would possibly be different, if people allowed others to be themselves. Crafty politicians in the African continent, actually take advantage of such stupidity—as to cow people into believing that it is sinful to think differently.
This is why political rallies are used to emotionally whip people into accepting a particular position, at the expense of one’s own viewpoint. This is also why some people find democracy as an unworkable principle in Africa. Most people go by what appeals to the majority, rather than what appeals to their own respective consciences.
Think of the scenario at the crucifixion of Jesus. What motivated those multitudes—screaming in unison, denouncing Jesus? If confronted individually—on what each thought about Jesus—chances are that the majority of them would not have agreed with what happened.
Like in the second level of hypocrisy—the person would be unaware of the wrongness of his/her actions. The person would be convinced of behaving normally, yet projecting an abnormal behaviour. All these levels of hypocrisy under which humanity exists, herald humanity’s sinful conditions.
The fourth and last level of hypocrisy is projected in cowardice. Interestingly, this is portrayed more in denominational Christianity, than any other grouping—except as including African politics. The deception that is found in Christianity does not mean that God has not revealed Himself to members of respective denominations. Leadership structures make it extremely difficult for ordinary people to express differing opinions.
Leadership makes decisions on behalf of the general laity. In other words the direction of any Church organization does not come from Christ—but commonly from denominational leaders. Pointing out some errors—deserving to be addressed— can actually attract removal from fellowship, or being censured—when not privileged to be in leadership.
It takes a very strong character to stand up against what is adopted—as practiced in any particular Christian denomination. This has remained a reality since the formation of Catholicism. Simple teachings of Christ have even been further complicated by Theologians—thereby enforcing authoritarianism—virtually, among all Christian organizations.
People who identify themselves as lay members prefer taking low profile—unwilling to stand up for the truth. They pretend to be good and obedient—yet deeply aware of the misdemeanours in their denominational Church organization.
In Zimbabwean politics, this type of hypocrisy was recently observed—as classically projected in ZANU PF—during military take-over. The former President had all along been treated as an iconic statesman. However, after the military coup, we saw the same group of supporters lampooning the old man—stating that they had only supported him under duress?
Those people had appeared as loyal members of ZANU PF—under the leadership of Mugabe. But deep inside their conscience, the same people had not supported him at all. They had avoided standing up for the truth, because there is comfort in pretending to be what one is not (hypocrisy). This is why Jesus declared:
“Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him”(Matthew 21:31-32) (ESV).
The commendable thing about blatant sinners—like prostitutes—is that they do not pretend to be what they are not. That is why it is not difficult for them to accept the truth. They are not like hypocrites who merely seek to please people—than projecting their true colours. God is looking for the real you—not the one taking comfort in being the pleaser of other people.
Hypocrisy is associated with falsehood—being Satan’s chief attribute. Pretending to be one thing—when actually being something else—a person projects Satanism. Through the apostle John—in the book of Revelation—Jesus was referring to hypocrisy:
“I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked”(Revelation 3:15-17) (ESV)
Notice that Jesus is actually comfortable with both the hot and the cold—rather than the lukewarm. The major problem with most Christians is in desiring to apply religion where it is not necessary. This leads them to falling prey to the schemes of the devil. See [Only the Red Hot Christians will make it into God’s Kingdom].
While at no point did Jesus apply religion—the hypocrites would rather stretch the Old Testament Laws into Christianity. They seek to manipulate those laws—using them as measuring standard to condemn others—rather than themselves.
Appearing as meticulous in keeping God’s laws, they seek to be justified as good people. Indeed, their followers shower them with accolades that elevate them—even ahead of Christ. Yet, as author of Christianity, Jesus simply introduced Kingdom principles—through the transformation of the mind—when behaving differently, for their application. (Romans 12:2).
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99