“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts…” -William Shakespeare
If the world is nothing more than a magnificent theatrical performance, then we the inhabitants of spaceship earth are merely the actors on its stage. How intriguing. That means we’re all hypocrites – at least in the classic sense of that word.
Did you know that the English term hypocrisy comes from the ancient Greek word ὑπόκρισις‚ (hypokrisis), which means play-acting? And the word hypocrite, from the Greek word υποκριτής‚ (hypokritis), was a technical term for a stage actor.
Yes ladies and gentlemen – I am a hypocrite. And before you get all sanctimonious on me – so are you. We are all hypocrites who regularly engage in some form of hypocrisy. (Que the crickets)
The definition and usage of the words hypocrite and hypocrisy has evolved over time. Today’s hypocrite can be defined as a person who simply does not practice what they preach. Have you ever criticized someone or attempted to give them some of your sage “advise” only to have them respond People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, or the equally popular, Listen to the pot calling the kettle black? Their response was a polite way of calling you a hypocrite! It’s happened to me a time or two. So, I now respond with the favored apology of hypocrites, Do as I say, not as I do!
Still not convinced of your hypocrisy? Let’s visit child-rearing for a moment. When I was boy, my friend Billy and I would sneak a smoke under the stairwell at the old So & So church in the North End of my home town. One day we got caught. Billy’s mom gave us a good scolding. She said that we were NEVER to smoke again. Evan as an adolescent, I remember thinking, “Yea right”. Was I just being a punk? No comment. But, you see, Billy’s mom smoked like a chimney. A parent who smokes, drinks excessively or curses like the proverbial drill sergeant and then expects their children to act differently is… well… a wee bit hypocritical. How can we expect our children and grandchildren to take us seriously when our actions cancel out our words? I know, Do as I say, not as I do!
“I consider myself a fairly ethical individual while I do have a lot of dichotomies within me. We’re all victims of our own hypocrisy at times.” – T. J. Miller
Okay, enough about you and me. Let’s turn our attention to politics. I believe in values – moral and spiritual. So when a candidate runs for office on a platform of “family values” while secretly carrying on an extramarital affair, is it any wonder that people question their integrity? Perhaps more and more of the electorate are growing tired of the scandals and deceits perpetrated by politicians full of deliberate hypocrisy and double standards: one for themselves, and one for the little folk.
Today our national faith in the political system continues to hover at all-time lows. Sure, it’s impossible for any human being to be up-front at all times. But when your actions consistently contradict what you say, that is hypocritical, and it undermines credibility. Is it any wonder why so few trust what the “politicians” say? I think Ronald Reagan was right, the most terrifying words in the English language today are: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.”
What about religious hypocrisy? We’ve all seen the stereotypical flamboyant TV preachers with bad hairstyles hawking baby wipes dipped in the Jordan River for just a small donation to “their ministry”. The money scandals, the moral failures; some would argue that many of them have done little to further the true cause of Jesus Christ. Listen, religion – like the rest of life – is full of hypocrisy. It is unfortunate that so many hypocrites can be found in both pew and pulpit. But does that justify anyone turning away from the Creator of all things and the Liberator he sent to the earth? If we have a bad meal in a restaurant, do we blame the food and stop eating? A nasty experience in a church should never be used as an excuse to turn your back on God.
“Many have quarreled about religion but they have never actually practiced it.” – Ben Franklin (1706-1790)
In Christendom, hypocrisy is usually manifest in one of two ways: asserting a belief in the precepts of the Almighty and then acting in a way that is contrary to that declaration, or condescending toward others in spite of our own weaknesses.
In the Older Testament, the prophet Isaiah blasted hypocrisy with this declaration:
13 And so the Lord says, “Since these people say they are mine but they do not obey me, and since their worship amounts to mere words learned by rote, 14 therefore I will take awesome vengeance on these hypocrites and make their wisest counselors as fools.” (Isaiah 29:13-14 TLB)
The Liberator Jesus actually quoted from the writings of Isaiah when heaping his disdain upon the “religious leadership” of his day. He said,
7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, 8 ‘These people say they honor me, but their hearts are far away. 9 Their worship is worthless, for they teach their man-made laws instead of those from God’.” (Matthew 15:7-9 TLB)
Jesus also took exception to the holier-than-thou attitude which the religious elite displayed:
27-28 “You hypocritical scribes and Pharisees! You are like white-washed tombs, which look fine on the outside but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all kinds of rottenness. For you appear like good men on the outside” but inside you are a mass of pretense and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:27-28 PHILLIPS)
It is obvious that Jesus had a low tolerance for religious hypocrisy among those who claimed to be the “leaders” of religion in that day. But, he also addressed judgmental hypocrites in the Sermon on the Mount:
3 “And why worry about a speck in the eye of a brother when you have a board in your own? 4 Should you say, ‘Friend, let me help you get that speck out of your eye,’ when you can’t even see because of the board in your own? 5 You hypocrite! First get rid of the board. Then you can see to help your brother.” (Matthew 7:3-5 TLB)
Do not misunderstand the intent of Jesus. He is not discounting perceptiveness in the identification of right and wrong; instead, He is warning us not to think so highly of our own goodness that we condescend toward others in self-righteousness. In other words, correct your own shortcomings before you go after the flaws in someone else.
“Nothing so needs reforming like other people’s habits.” – Mark Twain
Now, take a deep breath and read this from the Newer Testament book of Romans,
1-4 “If you feel inclined to set yourself up as a judge of those who sin, let me assure you, whoever you are, that you are in no position to do so. For at whatever point you condemn others you automatically condemn yourself, since you, the judge, commit the same sins. God’s judgment, we know, is utterly impartial in its action against such evil-doers. What makes you think that you who so readily judge the sins of others, can consider yourself beyond the judgment of God? Are you, perhaps, misinterpreting God’s generosity and patient mercy towards you as weakness on his part? Don’t you realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:1-4)
Ouch. To put it succinctly, who among us is truly qualified to pass judgment on anyone? It should be noted that hypocrisy is not the same thing as taking a stand against wickedness. For example, it is not hypocrisy to proclaim that adultery, murder or drunkenness is wrong, unless you are a murderess drunk that sleeps around ” that would be hypocrisy.
“Don’t judge others simply because they sin differently than you.” – Author Unknown
It is no secret that I am an ordained Christian minister. But like everyone else here on spaceship earth, I still mess up. Some days my life is like a rodeo – a wild ride which ends with me landing flat on my…, you know. Thankfully, I am not asking anyone to follow me. I don’t need your vote and I’m not selling anything. My only motive here is to share with you what I have learned about absolute TRUTH from the pages of the ancient scriptures. And even when I am struggling to be a living example of these realities in my own life, it doesn’t change the truth of what the scriptures teach. The Spirit of the Creator is still speaking. Listen for His voice and pay no attention to the hypocrisy or the hypocrites.
These are my closing thoughts which come from the pen of the Newer Testament writer John,
16b-18 God is love, and the man whose life is lived in love does, in fact, live in God, and God does, in fact, live in him. So our love for him grows more and more, filling us with complete confidence for the day when he shall judge all men” for we realize that our life in this world is actually his life lived in us. Love contains no fear” indeed fully-developed love expels every particle of fear, for fear always contains some of the torture of feeling guilty. This means that the man who lives in fear has not yet had his love perfected.
19-21 “Yes, we love him because he first loved us. If a man says, “I love God” and hates his brother, he is a liar (hypocrite). For if he does not love the brother who is before his eyes how can he love the one beyond his sight (God)? And in any case it is his explicit command that the one who loves God must love his brother too.” (1 John 4:16-21 Phillips)
And now, this is my prayer,
1”Bend down and hear my cry, O Lord, and answer me, for I am deep in trouble. 2 Protect me from death, for I try to follow all your laws. Save me, for I am serving you and trusting you. 3 Be merciful, O Lord, for I am looking up to you in constant hope. 4 Give me happiness, O Lord, for I worship only you. 5 O Lord, you are so good and kind, so ready to forgive, so full of mercy for all who ask your aid. 6 Listen closely to my prayer, O God. Hear my urgent cry. 7 I will call to you whenever trouble strikes and you will help me.” (Psalm 86:1-6)
Remember, your religion is what you do when the sermon is over.
Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher and a rabbid Coastal Junkie ®
For additional information write to: Coastal Life Ministries, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656