Study Guide

Gospel of Matthew Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy

So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. (NRSV 6:2)

Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (KJV 6:2)

Jesus is not a fan of showoffs. Here's a question: does this mean that when we make a donation to that friend of ours who's running a marathon to support the American Cancer Society, we're supposed to do it anonymously? Or does this rule only apply to religious stuff?

"And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward." (NRSV 6:5)

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (KJV 6:5)

You can see that hypocrisy, according to Matthew's Jesus, means putting on a show when participating in any act of religious devotion. How's that different from how we think of hypocrisy today?

And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. (NRSV 6:16)

Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (KJV 6:16)

It seems like the hypocrites always want to be the center of attention so that others can praise them for their piety. Here's the thing: their intentions are the exact opposite of piety. And Jesus won't let them off easy.

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus [...] and said, "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?" [...] he answered them, "And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? [...] for the sake of your tradition, you make void the word of God. You hypocrites!" (NRSV 15:1-7)

Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees [...] saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? [...] But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? [...] Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites. (KJV 15:1-7)

Hear that? That's the sound of Jesus throwing down the gauntlet. It's one thing to accuse someone of being a hypocrite; but to say they make void the word of God? Them's fighting words.

The Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test Jesus they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, "When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' And in the morning, 'It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah." (NRSV 16:1-4)

The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. (KJV 16:1-4)

What's with the Jonah reference? Well, Jonah spent three day in the belly of a big fish, so we're guessing Jesus is—once again—foreshadowing his own death and resurrection.

But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites?" (NRSV 22:18)

But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? (KJV 22:18)

Wait a second. Doesn't someone else put Jesus to the test before he starts his ministry? Who is that again? Oh yeah—Satan. Not a good category to be in.

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