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Anatomy lesson 9: religious hypocrisy has two faces

Rev. Enoch Thompson | August 12, 2023 | Matthew 23:25-28


In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside, you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. Matthew 23:28 (NIV)


Can you picture the situation described by the Lord in this assessment of the Scribes and Pharisees? The picture painted is of a vessel looking spick and span on the outside, but with dirt in the inside. The other picture is beautiful, whitewashed tombs which naturally contain dead persons’ bones and remains. These were graphic pictures presented by the Lord to shock us into how detestable the life and person of a hypocrite is.

Hypocrites create a fine appearance which tracts people to them. It may be the office they occupy, the attires they wear or the opulence they display. They look gorgeous, eloquent and socially well-composed. However, a closer observation of what is in them, which also comes out of them shows that they are full of vicious lies, filthy thoughts and conduct, malicious vindictiveness, pride and arrogance. It surprises those who make this discovery of the hypocrite and provokes righteous souls to oppose them as the Lord does here in Matthew 23.

It is easy to put on appearances to impress and please people and many find it easy to do so. There are people who smile at others but within themselves feel a deep dislike and even hatred for them. There is much hypocrisy among Christians, and sometimes it is the unspoken culture of the Church that appearances are presented to hide very wrong spirits and sinister intentions towards one the other.

The Lord directs us “First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” Matthew 23:26 (NIV). We must prioritize the hidden inner intentions and attitudes before we focus on the externalities. A rotten inside with an impressive outside is a mere sham and hypocrisy!


How do you truly feel within your mind about the people you deal with and relate to? What and who are you really, within yourself as you best know yourself? In this closet of the deep search of God into our inner make-up, do you see the statue of hypocrisy mounted in your heart? Let’s repent, and be true, inside, and outside.


Search me o God, and know my heart today, try me O Saviour, know my thoughts I pray. See if there be some wicked in me. Cleanse me from every hypocrisy and set me free. For your dear Name’s sake, Amen.


SHOWERS! BLESSINGS!! _________________________________

DAILY word study: APPEAR

The English word "appear" in Matthew 23:28 is translated from the Greek word "φαίνω" (phaino). The Greek word "φαίνω" (phaino) is a rich and multifaceted term that holds a significant place in the context of Matthew 23:28. In this verse, it sheds light on the essence of Jesus' critique of the Pharisees and their hypocritical behaviour. To truly grasp the depth of this word's meaning, it's essential to delve into its various connotations and implications:

  1. Visibility and Manifestation: At its core, "φαίνω" (phaino) conveys the concept of making something visible or manifest. It refers to bringing forth that which was previously concealed. In the context of the Pharisees, Jesus is highlighting how they projected an image of righteousness and piety to the public eye, making their outward appearance seem virtuous and commendable.

  2. Exterior vs. Interior: The word "appear" emphasizes the distinction between external appearances and inner reality. The Pharisees meticulously maintained an outward show of holiness, much like whitewashing a tomb to make it visually pleasing. However, just as a whitewashed tomb might hide the decay within, the Pharisees' external righteousness concealed their inner hypocrisy and moral corruption.

  3. Authenticity and Transparency: "φαίνω" (phaino) prompts us to consider the importance of authenticity and transparency in our spiritual lives. Jesus calls us to be genuine and sincere, allowing our inner transformation to be visible and evident to others. It challenges us to ensure that our external actions are an honest reflection of our inner convictions.

  4. Divine Illumination: The imagery of light is often associated with "φαίνω" (phaino). Just as light reveals what was previously hidden in darkness, our actions and attitudes should be illuminated by the truth of God's Word. "φαίνω" (phaino) calls us to live in the light of God's presence, allowing His truth to expose any areas of inconsistency or hypocrisy within us.

By examining the nuances of "φαίνω" (phaino), we uncover a profound lesson. Jesus' use of this word reminds us that God sees beyond appearances; He looks at the heart. The challenge is not merely to project an image of righteousness, but to cultivate genuine transformation from within. Our faith should be a journey of both external and internal alignment, allowing our true character to shine forth authentically.


How can you ensure that your life reflects the true light of Christ, both in external actions and in the depths of your heart? How might you align your appearance with the authenticity of your inner devotion to God?

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