So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets as the hypocrites do, in the synagogues and on the streets to be honored by them…
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men…
And when you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting…
Matthew 6: 1, 5, 16
Three different types of behavior but each stamped with the same label: hypocrite. And hypocrisy, bottom line, is pretending to be something you aren’t.
On occasion we have all alluded to being more than we were or padded our resume to impress those around us. Jesus was referring to something else. In the culture into which He came, religion was synonymous with ritual and ritual equaled performance. After all…
What good is giving if an admiring audience doesn’t witness your generosity?
What is the point of prayer if others miss a chance to marvel at your eloquence?
What is the benefit of fasting if passersby aren’t in awe of your self-sacrifice?
And Jesus affirmed that in every situation, because of the affirmation of the onlookers, the hypocrites had “received their reward in full.” To which He had these words of warning: “Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 6:1)
Pretend piety and show-off sanctity may gather a crowd of admirers, but it won’t fool the God who knows our hearts. Those who claim to serve God but desire only the praise of men will experience the world’s approval. And it will be satisfying for the moment. However, Jesus promise is that those who seek the reward of the God who sees in secret and rewards in His time will one day hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant…come and share your Master’s happiness!” (Matt. 25:21).
It is all about choosing our audience. In the end, we each make a conscious decision to participate in the world’s passing performance or look up to the eternal rewards of heaven.