PANAYIOTA grew up on an island in the Mediterranean. As a teenager, she took a keen interest in politics. Later she served as the secretary for a political party in the village where she lived. She even went from house to house to raise funds for the party. As time passed, though, Panayiota became disillusioned. Nepotism, ambition, friction, and jealousy persisted despite party members calling each other comrade.
Daniel was raised in a staunchly religious family in Ireland. Sadly, however, he has vivid memories of the hypocrisy of the priests who drank heavily, gambled, and stole from the collection plate, all the while preaching to him about burning in hell if he sinned.
Jeffery spent most of his working life in marketing and sales for international ship owners based in the United Kingdom and the United States. He recalls many instances where clients and competitors resorted to fraud when negotiating with government officials. Hypocritically, they were willing to say almost anything in order to secure a contract.
Regrettably, these are not isolated cases. Hypocrisy is all too common today in nearly every area of human activity—political, religious, and commercial. Appropriately, the English word “hypocrite” comes from a Greek root that denotes a speaker or a stage actor, often donning a mask. In time, the term came to mean anyone who was putting on an act to deceive others or to advance certain selfish goals.
Hypocrisy can arouse strong emotions in those affected by it, including bitterness, anger, and resentment. In frustration, the victims may say: “Hypocrisy! Will it ever end?” Thankfully, God’s Word gives us reasons to believe that it will.
HOW GOD AND HIS SON VIEW HYPOCRISY
According to the Bible, hypocrisy got its start, not among humans, but with an unseen spirit creature. Early in human history, Satan the Devil used a serpent as a mask and portrayed himself as a benefactor in order to mislead the first woman, Eve. (Genesis 3:1-5) Since then, many humans have similarly made themselves out to be something they were not, and they have done this to deceive others and to achieve selfish aims.
When the ancient nation of Israel fell into the trap of false worship and spiritual hypocrisy, God repeatedly warned them of the consequences. Through the prophet Isaiah, Jehovah God declared: “This people approaches me with their mouth and they honor me with their lips, but their heart is far removed from me.” (Isaiah 29:13) When the nation failed to turn around, God allowed foreign powers to destroy Israel’s religious center—Jerusalem and its temple—first by the Babylonians in 607 B.C.E. and ultimately by the Roman armies in 70 C.E. Clearly, God does not tolerate hypocrisy indefinitely.
On the other hand, God and His Son, Jesus, greatly value humans who are honest and sincere. For example, early in Jesus’ ministry, a man named Nathanael approached him. Upon seeing him, Jesus exclaimed: “See, truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” (John 1:47) Nathanael, also known as Bartholomew, became one of Jesus’ 12 apostles.—Luke 6:13-16.
Jesus spent time with his followers, and he taught them God’s way of thinking. Hypocrisy was to have no place among them. As a warning, Jesus strongly condemned the hypocritical practices of the religious leaders of that time. Consider some of their ways.
They practiced “righteousness” with showy display. Jesus told his audience: “Take care not to practice your righteousness in front of men to be noticed by them . . . as the hypocrites do.” He also told them to make gifts of mercy “in secret,” or discreetly. They should pray in private, not just to be seen by others. Then their worship would be genuine and would be appreciated by his Father.—Matthew 6:1-6.
They were quick to criticize. Jesus said: “Hypocrite! First remove the rafter from your own eye, and then you will see clearly how to remove the straw from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5) By drawing attention to the faults of others while having greater faults himself, an individual is making himself appear to be something he is not. For, in reality, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”—Romans 3:23.
They harbored impure motives. On one occasion, disciples of the Pharisees and party followers of Herod approached Jesus with a tax question. Using flattery, they said to Jesus: “Teacher, we know you are truthful and teach the way of God in truth.” Then they set a trap by asking the question: “Is it lawful to pay head tax to Caesar or not?” Jesus replied: “Why do you put me to the test, hypocrites?” Jesus rightly called them hypocrites because they were not really seeking an answer to their question but were trying to “trap him in his speech.”—Matthew 22:15-22.
True Christians practice “love out of a clean heart and out of a good conscience and out of faith without hypocrisy.”—1 TIMOTHY 1:5
When the Christian congregation was established at Pentecost 33 C.E., an environment was created in which truth and honesty flourished. True Christians worked hard to eradicate hypocritical tendencies from their personality. For example, Peter, one of the 12 apostles, encouraged fellow Christians to practice “obedience to the truth with unhypocritical brotherly affection.” (1 Peter 1:22) The apostle Paul exhorted his coworkers to practice “love out of a clean heart and out of a good conscience and out of faith without hypocrisy.”—1 Timothy 1:5.
THE POWER OF GOD’S WORD
The teachings of Jesus and the apostles, as found in the Bible, are just as powerful today as they were in the first century. Regarding this, the apostle Paul wrote: “The word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints from the marrow, and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) Coming to know the Bible’s teachings and endeavoring to live in harmony with them has helped many to turn from hypocrisy and to pursue sincerity and honesty. Consider the experience of the three individuals mentioned at the outset.
Panayiota experienced a turning point in her life when she accepted an invitation to attend meetings at a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. She did not see any outward display of righteousness to impress others. She says: “There I saw real love and genuine interest for fellow man being displayed, something I had not seen all the years that I had been active in politics.”
Panayiota started to study the Bible and progressed to the point of baptism. That was 30 years ago. She now says: “I found true meaning in life, not when I was going from house to house promoting the political party, but when I began preaching about God’s Kingdom—the only way we can have a just world.”
Daniel made good progress in the Christian congregation and was given certain responsibilities. A few years later, he made an error in judgment and his conscience started to trouble him. “With memories of the hypocrisy I had seen in the church years before,” he said, “I felt no alternative but to give up my privileges of service. I couldn’t live with allowing fellow Christians to believe I was something that I was not.”
Happily, after a period of readjustment, Daniel felt he could resume his privileges of service with a good conscience, and he gladly accepted responsibilities in the congregation once again. This refreshing honesty is typical of those who serve God without hypocrisy. They learn to “remove the rafter” from their own eye before offering to “remove the straw” from their brother’s eye.
Jeffery, who spent his life in the business world, said: “As I progressed in Bible knowledge, I realized that I could no longer be the slick, fast-talking salesman who was prepared to say anything to get the contract. My conscience had been affected by Bible verses such as Proverbs 11:1, which tells us that ‘dishonest scales are detestable to Jehovah.’” Yes, unlike those who posed the tax question to Jesus, Jeffery learned to act without hidden motives in his dealings with both fellow Christians and nonbelievers.
The millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide are endeavoring to apply what they have learned from the Bible. They are making tireless efforts to “put on the new personality that was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” (Ephesians 4:24) We encourage you to find out who Jehovah’s Witnesses are, what they believe, and how they can help you to learn about the new world of God’s promise. There “righteousness is to dwell” and hypocrisy will be no more.—2 Peter 3:13.