Text: Matthew 7:3-5, Luke 12:1-3, Acts 4:36-5:11
By: Ezekiel, Oghenekaro
In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered-together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. (Luke 12:1-3)
Unfortunately, one obstacle to the acceptance of Christianity that is often raised is provided by Christians themselves. Phrased in many ways, the core of the objection is, “If Christianity is true, why are there hypocrites in the church?” In other words, if Christianity is really supposed to change people, then why do some who profess to believe in Jesus set such bad examples?
In Luke 11, Jesus calls out the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. He exposes them, He exposes the false lives they have been living. And then in chapter 12, in the verses that we just read, He turns to His disciples and warns them that more of this kind of exposure would come. He makes a declaration that one day, everyone will be exposed. All that is hidden in darkness will one day be brought into the light.
Have you ever pretended to be someone you are not? Or have you ever told someone you are doing great, when in reality that is not at all true? Have you ever resorted to dishonesty in order to meet someone else’s expectations for you? We do these things at times, don’t we? We all have done them. And they are all examples of hypocrisy. Have you ever tried to justify yourself, in some way or another, by looking at your outward appearance, while ignoring the problems in your heart? Again, this is common for us. And again, this is hypocrisy. Each of us, in our sinfulness, has a natural bent to twist the truth about ourselves. We have a bent toward hypocrisy.
Masking is a process in which an individual changes or “masks” their natural personality to conform to social pressures, abuse, or harassment…. Masking can be strongly influenced by environmental factors such as authoritarian parents (do as I say, my way or no other way parents), rejection, and emotional, physical, or sexual abuse (Wikipedia). Another form the word is hypocrisy, which we have mentioned earlier. Although, this lesson may not be able to speak on all aspects of masking, we will however, point out some of our actions that tends to help people to mask to suit what we think of them and relates some dangers of masking.
One definition of hypocrisy is “an outward pretence masking an inner reality.” Another way to say that is that hypocrisy is putting on an outward appearance to hide our true self. It is putting on a mask, so that who we truly are is hidden by the mask we have put on.
Mankind is heavily reliant on masks. If you look out in the world, it is a pandemic (I am not referring to the covid-19 at there), I am speaking of the masks of hypocrisy. These masks of hypocrisy are all over the place. In our relationships with other people, we may wear masks. Figuratively speaking, we may have a whole closet full of masks so we can pull out different ones for different occasions just like do with our covid-19 preventive masks. When we are around one group of people, we wear one mask, and then we wear a different mask around others. People in the world do this. And we can fall into the same trap. Maybe for Sunday mornings, it is a mask that projects to all those around that everything is fine. Or that we do not really have any big sin problems.
For some who are here this morning, you are wearing a mask that says you are a Christian. But that is not true. You may know, on the inside, that that is not true, but you wear the mask to appease your friends, to appease your parents, your spouse or just to fit in. Or maybe you are wearing that Christian mask, and you do not even realize that it is just a mask. You do not realize your “Christianity” is only skin-deep. This kind of self-deception is common with hypocrisy. You and I, we may simply be trying to deceive others, but while doing so, we can often even deceive ourselves about who we truly are. This is one of the great dangers of living behind masks. And it is a danger Jesus warns against in Luke 12.
When we wear masks, we think we are in control. We are trying to control what other people think of us, for the better. Trying to manipulate things in our favour, for our purposes. But what really happens when we wear masks is that our sinful flesh is given control. It is freed up to run rampant. Sin’s pervasive influence spreads in our hearts, and in our lives. And one of the things it is doing, as it spreads, is influencing the way we think of God. Changing the way we view God, for the worse. Sin manipulates our thoughts, manipulates our affections, so that we will rebel against God. So that we will exalt ourselves and suppress the truth about our brokenness.
All of this shows that hypocrisy is dangerous. That danger is the first point Jesus shared with His disciples. Then secondly, He tells them hypocrisy is temporary. There is no hypocrisy that will last forever.
2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. (Luke 12:2-3)
In other words, at some point the masks people wear will dissolve. And all that will be left is the truth. Truth will be proclaimed from the housetops. What is true will be exposed for all to see.
Often this kind of exposure happens during someone’s lifetime. A person may try to hide behind masks, but the truth tends to come out eventually. We have heard of notable men, who after their deaths, certain things are revealed about them, things we never expect to be associated with such persons. Sometimes, however, a whole life can be lived deceiving others. But even in those cases, when a person dies, he cannot take his masks with him. He is exposed before the just judgment of God. So, in either case, whether in life, or after death, all are exposed. The truth is revealed, one way or another.
The Dangers of Masking
We will look at the dangers of hypocrisy from the story of Ananias and Saphirra in Acts 5:1-9.
- We Are All Prone to the Deadly Sin of Hypocrisy
We need to be clear on the exact nature of the sin of Ananias and Sapphira. Their sin was not that they had sold their property and had given only a part to the church. In fact, Peter makes it plain (5:4) that it would not have been a sin for them to have sold their property and not given anything to the church. Their sin was that they conspired together to deceive the apostles and the church into thinking that they were giving the entire amount, when in fact they kept back a portion for themselves. In other words, they were trying to impress everyone with a higher level of spirituality and commitment than they really had.
Have you ever done that? I hope you do not say “no”. We have all been guilty of trying to impress others with our commitment and devotion to Christ, even though we know in our heart that we are exaggerating.
A. Masking Is a Serious Matter:
Liberal commentators are shocked at this sudden, severe punishment of Ananias. Ananias is not given a chance to repent, even though his sin seems not all that serious. His wife is not even told of her husband’s death and of what will happen to her if she lies. The instant that she agrees with her husband’s lie, she is struck dead. In this age of tolerance, we might think, “What is the big deal?”
But we need to view this sin from God’s holy perspective, not from our present world’s view. Jesus always hit hypocrisy hard. In Matthew 23, He pronounced many woes on the scribes and Pharisees, whom He repeatedly called hypocrites. He warned His disciples, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1). Like leaven, hypocrisy starts small and unnoticed. It does not seem to be a big deal. But if it is not quickly checked, it spreads. It deceives the person into thinking that things are right between him and God, when in reality, things are very wrong.
The leaven of hypocrisy can soon infect an entire church. The church at Laodicea thought that things were going well. They said, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.” But the Lord’s perspective was, “You do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17)!
Some ask why God dealt with Ananias and Sapphira so severely when He does not do so with other hypocrites in the church. Probably, it was because the church was in its infancy, and He needed to set before us a sober lesson of the seriousness of this sin among God’s people. He did the same thing with Achan (Joshua 7; see also Lev. 10:1-3; 2 Sam. 6:6-7).
B. It Bring Christianity to a Disrepute:
This couple that fell into this sin were professing Christians, “members” of the church in Jerusalem. This means that we are all in danger of falling into this subtle sin. We do not want other Christians or those outside the church to think that we have problems. That would not be a good testimony, would it? So, we put on our spiritual mask when we are around others, even though we know, and our family knows that we do not live as we profess to live. When a prominent Christian is shown to be a hypocrite, the world heaves a sigh of relief, thinking, “Christians are really no different than anyone else. If they can also be fraudulent, fornicators, adulterers, then Christianity must be a scam.”
Notice also that this sin affects both men and women. Some sins may be more prevalent in men (pool, betting), while other sins are more prevalent with women (gossiping). But both sexes are vulnerable to hypocrisy. Ananias and Sapphira had agreed together to this act of deception (5:9). Whether you are male or female, you need to guard yourself against hypocrisy.
By the way, some argue that a wife should submit to her husband, even if he asks her to join him in doing wrong. This story shows the error of that view. When Peter asked Sapphira whether they sold the land for the amount that her husband had claimed, she should have obeyed God above her husband (5:29) by telling the truth.
C. It Makes One Selfish
Motive is everything in this sin. If Ananias and Sapphira had sold their land and had told the apostles, “We feel led to give half to the church,” it would not have been a problem. Their sin was the evil intent of their hearts, to make others think that they were more spiritual than they really were. They were motivated by love of self, not by love of God and others. God, who always knows the motives of our hearts, judged them on the spot.
Hypocrisy is always motivated by self-love. We want to impress others, to make them think that we are something that we know in our hearts we are not. Kids, by the way, have a built-in antenna to detect hypocrisy in their parents. Nothing turns kids away from the faith as quickly as hypocritical parents. If they hear you put on your spiritual voice with brethren, but you verbally abuse them at home, they can see right through you. They will not be drawn to follow the God you profess to follow. That is why it is crucial for parents to acknowledge their wrongs and ask for forgiveness of their children when they sin against them (that is not our culture, Nigerian parents cannot do wrong, this again is hypocrisy and selfishness).
D. Maskers Are Short-Sighted:
Maskers are short-sighted in several ways:
i. Hypocrisy Focuses on Group Dynamics, Not on Personal Reality with God.
It would have been an exciting thing to be in the Jerusalem church in those days. There were the large gatherings in Solomon’s portico, where thousands heard the apostles preach about Jesus (Acts 5:12; 2:47). The church had an unusual sense of unity and caring (Acts 4:32). The apostles were performing extraordinary miracles to confirm the message of the gospel (Acts 4:33; 5:16). Every day there were stories of more people getting saved (Acts 5:14). Even by those on the outside held the church in high esteem (Acts 5:13). It was easy to get caught up in the group dynamic and to ride on the bandwagon of what was happening, but to lack personal reality with God. That is what happened to Ananias and Sapphira.
One of the main ways to avoid hypocrisy is to make sure that you are walking with God every day. Have you personally trusted in Christ as your Saviour and Lord? Do you spend time in His Word and in prayer on a regular basis? Do you deal with the sin in your life, especially on the heart level, when His Word confronts you with where you are wrong? If not, you must start faking it when you are around other Christians, to keep up the appearance that you are doing fine. That is the beginning of hypocrisy.
ii. Hypocrisy Focuses on What People Think, Not on What God Thinks.
Ananias and Sapphira wanted to look good in front of the apostles and the rest of the church. Barnabas had just given the total amount of a sale of some property. Everyone thought highly of Barnabas. Ananias and Sapphira wanted everyone to think highly of them. But sadly, they did not stop to consider what the living God thought about them.
To avoid hypocrisy, you must live daily with the aim of pleasing God above all else. The minute you start trying to look good to others, without being concerned about what God thinks, you are into hypocrisy. Both Peter and Barnabas later fell into this sin. The church in Antioch had both Jews and Gentiles together in one fellowship. When Peter first visited there, he ate together with the Gentiles, contrary to Jewish customs. But when the Jewish circumcision party showed up, Peter withdrew and only ate with the Jews, out of fear for what they would think. Peter’s hypocrisy wrongly influenced Barnabas. Paul confronted him publicly, and to his credit, Peter accepted the rebuke (Gal. 2:11-14). If such godly men as Peter and Barnabas could be carried away by this sin, then certainly we all need to be on guard!
iii. Hypocrisy Focuses on This Life, Not on Eternity.
If Ananias and Sapphira had been thinking about the shortness of life and the certainty of judgment and eternity, they would not have done what they did. But whether we get struck down instantly for our sin or have to stand before God at the judgment, in a few short years we all will face God. Scripture reminds us, “nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13, NIV). Twice our text mentions that great fear came on all those who heard of what happened to Ananias and Sapphira (5:6, 11). Great fear of God should come on us as well! We are all a heartbeat away from standing before God and giving an account. Keeping eternity in view will keep us from the sin of hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy is a deadly sin. It destroys the hypocrite, and it damages many that are contaminated by it. I urge you to allow God’s Word to confront your life. If we are playing the religion game, it is high time we quit! Get real with the living God. Spend time each day with Him. Let us judge our sins and turn from them. Seek to grow in godly character. Our God desires truth in the innermost being (Ps. 51:6).