Hypocrisy: a misleading implication or claim to possession of a desirable trait. A willful state of deceit.
Pharisees: a religious sect during the time of Jesus that exercised that strong social and political influence.
Jesus viewed the Pharisees of his day as self-righteous hypocrites. In turn, Pharisees orchestrated his death. Have you ever seen people behaving hypocritically and then you yourself became stuck on Pharisee alert? The entrenching grasp of hypocrisy is a self-truncating place to be.
The problem with you and I excoriating the hypocrites around us is that we are all Pharisees. Pharisees are our kin. And how is that? We treat the image-bearers of God around us as objects to promote our worth, and tantrum when we don’t get responses we want. We chronically present ourselves as better than we are and others worse, or perhaps instead get proud of ourselves when we don’t. We can either remain willfully blind to our own hypocrisy, or admit we have a problem and enter life-long rehabilitation for our dishonorable condition.
Pharisee-ism can take the form of merely being un-empathizing and un-gracious. However, it can also take the form of calling every disputed truth claim “arrogant” due to some form of felt isolation in our personal life. Reverse Pharisee-ism if you will. So hypocrisy is not just a religious thing. Politics and relationships are rife with it. We may call our co-workers turfy while we erect barbed wire. We may call Christians theocrats for asserting their worldview should be welcome in cultural dialogue with the views of others. We may obtain twisted satisfaction in calling others hateful for simply disagreeing with us. We may shun others as the opportunity to embrace them disappears over the horizon. And to normalize our existential dysfunction, we may characterize deep relational wickedness as “Who We Are”.
Pharisees were moralists of sorts. Hypocritical moralism is bad, but Jesus was all up in the Pharisees’ grill because they didn’t practice what they preached while claiming they did. It is common in current pop culture to hear someone who makes a moral assertion called judgmental and hypocritical. But this inability to distinguish confrontational dialogue from hateful assault is a social malignancy. Hypocrisy is very different from claiming, say, that the Bible’s commentary on civil morality is worthy of being followed.
What if the key to proclaiming our ideas to others is becoming convinced we are truly no better than those we would try to influence with what we feel passionately about? That’s a proposition I can get behind. But I can’t get behind relentless self-promotion (it erodes my capacity for inward peace and joy). Nor can I get behind a gag order on speaking out on civilization’s malcontents (that is unloving, apathetic, and merciless).
Once we acknowledge we are all hypocrites needing rehabilitation, we can get on with more authentic, less cynical, solution-seeking dialogue that doesn’t malign one another’s intentions to win a debate. In the process, we get acquainted with our kinfolk too.