I dare say we’re all familiar with the problem of hypocrisy in the church. For most of us, it’s something we’ve had close experience with. We’ve found ourselves disgusted with others who we identify as hypocrites and we may even have caught ourselves doing hypocritical things.
As we wrap up our study of how James talks about godly wisdom, we come to the last characteristic on his list. “The wisdom from above is … without hypocrisy” (James 3:17, WEB). In Greek, the words for hypocrisy and hypocrite have to do with someone playing a part, as if they were an actor on stage. They’re dissemblers, pretenders who simulate, feign, and pretend to be something they are not (Thayer’s dictionary, entries on G5273 and G5271). The opposite is what we find in wisdom — anupokritos (G505), something that is unfeigned, undisguised, sincere.
The Bible tells us “wisdom is the principle thing, therefore get wisdom” (Prov. 4:7, KJV). Wisdom is something God has in abundance and which He is eager to share with those who ask for it (James 1:5). As we grow in wisdom we will become people who are sincere, authentic, and live without hypocrisy.
Traits of the Hypocritical
Before we talk more about living without hypocrisy, let’s take a look at what a hypocrite is like. Jesus talked about this quite a bit in the gospels recorded by Matthew, Mark, and Luke (in fact, the word hupokrites, G5273, only appears in these three books).
- Hypocrites call attention to the godly things they do in order to be seen and respected by other people (Matt. 6:2, 5, 16)
- Hypocrites judge others before fixing up their own problems and repenting of their own sins (Matt. 7:5; Luke 6:42)
- Hypocrites have double standards when applying God’s law (Matt. 15:4-7; Luke 13:14-16)
- Hypocrites try to tempt others to sin (Matt 22:17-18)
- Hypocrites block others from getting closer to the Lord (Matt. 23:13-15)
- Hypocrites are greedy and have misplaced priorities (Matt. 23:16-19)
- Hypocrites get distracted by minutia and neglect the things that are most important to God (Matt. 23:23)
- Hypocrites appear righteous on the outside but are inwardly wicked (Matt. 23:25-28; Luke 11:44)
- Hypocrites play lip-service to God but their hearts aren’t committed (Mark 7:6)