Hypocrisy: a very disturbing phenomenon
During this celebratory Lenten and Easter season, it is most appropriate to reflect upon some of the teachings and admonitions of Jesus Christ of Nazareth with regard to the practice of hypocrisy.
In view of the increasing duplicitous nature of human beings, Jesus' disapproval of hypocrisy is as relevant today as it was more than 2,000 years ago.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, "Hypocrisy is the assumption or postulation of moral standards to which one's behaviour does not conform." Simply put, hypocrisy is pretentiousness or false outward display. The character, Hyacinth in the British sitcom Keeping Up Appearances, is a good example of what hypocrisy is all about.
When Jesus was on earth, no group was more guilty of this form of deception than the Pharisees - that Jewish sect who claimed to possess superior sanctity although privately their morality was the very opposite of what they displayed in public. Their overall behaviour was so contradictory and repulsive that Jesus referred to this group of sanctimonious leaders as hypocrites who prayed openly to be seen by their fellowmen.
Jesus must have encountered the hypocrisy of these self-righteous Pharisees almost daily, for three of the Gospels - St Matthew, St Mark and St Luke - are replete with Jesus' condemnation of the Pharisees' duplicity.
For example, in St Matthew 6: Jesus stated unequivocally: "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."
Scribes and pharisees
Then in St Luke 11:44, Jesus rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees for their perpetual hypocrisy. He stated: "Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them."
Jesus expanded on this condemnation even more forcefully in Matthew 23:27-28 when he said: "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity."
It was, therefore, not surprising that the Pharisees in particular wanted to silence Jesus' condemnation of their self-righteous hypocrisy once and for all. This was probably one of the reasons why the chief priest and his council connived with the Roman authorities to crucify Jesus.
It may be truly said that hypocrisy is as prevalent today, as it was during the time Jesus was alive in the Holy Land. Millions of people throughout the world have become hostages to this sinister practice of hypocrisy. From ordinary folks to those in high authority, hypocrisy seems to have become an integral component of this universal culture of double-dealing.
We are all aware of the two-faced person who talks out of both sides of his or her mouth; the person who 'carries fire in one hand and water in the other'; the person who 'continues to bear a stone in one hand, and a piece of bread in the other'.
It is a well-known fact that the political arena is a breeding ground for hypocritical statements. Politicians invariably say what the masses want to hear during an electoral campaign, but also invariably do the opposite after they have been elected.
There is no clearer manifestation of this sinister and disturbing form of hypocrisy than the utterings of Ted Cruz, who announced his candidacy for president of the United States. At this announcement on Monday, March 23, he derided Obamacare and vowed to repeal as soon as he became president. But less than 72 hours later, he embraced it because he and his family wanted to sign up for it.
Similarly, those who claim to be imbued with religious fervour love to preach, testify and pray in churches and public places to display their religiosity, but in private they are also imbued with hatred, bitterness, resentment and an unforgiving spirit.
During this Lenten and Easter season, we should all reflect upon the teachings and admonitions of Jesus Christ and try to rid ourselves of that sinister phenomenon known as hypocrisy.