I’ve spent a lot of time studying and pondering this next attribute of heavenly wisdom. It has been a very eye-opening and convicting study for me. I hope and pray it will have the same effect on you also as you read and consider it. The apostle James, here in verse 17, states that wisdom from above is “without hypocrisy”. In order to understand this description we must first have a clear concept of what a hypocrite is.
“Hypocrite” is a Greek word which literally means “under a mask”. It was used in the Greek culture to describe an actor on a stage. In the ancient theaters each actor played several parts. To change identities he would simply wear a different mask. This was the word that Jesus used to describe the Jewish leaders. Over and over again in the Gospels, especially Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus called them hypocrites. No sin was so sternly denounced by Jesus as that of hypocrisy. In Matthew 23 Jesus called them “blind guides”, “white washed tombs”, and “vipers”. He used the strongest possible language of condemnation.
William Barclay asked the question: “What were the things which incurred the anger of Jesus?” The first thing he mentions is: “Jesus was angry with anyone who was a hypocrite.” The following are some further exerpts from William Barclay’s comments. “A hypocrite is a man who says one thing with his lips, and quite another in his heart , , , . The man who is one thing to your face and quite another behind your back, the man who is ostensibly pious on Sunday and completely worldly on Monday, the man who professes a religion of love and of service, and who lives a life of bitterness and selfishness – that is the man who incurred the anger of Jesus (Day by Day with William Barclay).
Let’s not forget that the first hypocrite described in the Bible was Satan. He disguised himself as a serpent when he tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God. When we act like a hypocrite we are acting like him, following his example. II Corinthians 11:14 says that he “disguishes himself as an angel of light”, when he’s really the prince of darkness.
Do we sometimes put on a performance in order to win the applause or approval of others? Most of us like to “look good”, don’t we? We like to look good on the outside, and we like to give the impression that we “look good” on the inside. A seminary professor once saw a bumper sticker that read, “Jesus is coming! Look Busy!” He later warned his students about the dangers of “faking it” – pretending to be something we are not.
One way Christians wear a mask is by not sharing their weaknesses, thereby giving the impression that they don’t have any weaknesses. A close look at their lives will soon show that to be untrue. And even if people don’t see it, God sees it. We can’t fool Him!
We sometimes give in to the temptation that we have it all together, don’t we? But a person with wisdom from above recognizes that he has imperfections, struggles, fears, and temptations, and is honest before God and before others. Such people are sincere, transparent, authentic, genuine, open, and reliable. As the saying goes, “What you see is what you get.” There are no “unpleasant surprises”. They can be trusted because they are not motivated by pride but by obedience to God and love for others. They are more concerned about pleasing God than impressing people.
Are you happy with the way you look on the outside? What about the inside? Jesus makes it very clear in Matthew 6:16, “Don’t be like the hypocrites”!
Dr. M.R. DeHaan of the Radio Bible Class Ministries says: “The biggest hypocrite of all, however, is the man or woman who refuses to come to Christ because there are so many hypocrites in the church. Such a person is being inconsistent. Business is full of hypocrites, but that does not stop him from doing business. Society is full of them, but he does not decide to become a hermit. Hell is full of hypocrites, so if a person doesn”t like hypocrites he had better make sure he’s not going there.” There’s no bigger hypocrite than the person who pretends that he doesn’t need Jesus.
Our lives are on display, like the ads in the newspaper. Who is being advertized in your life? Is the Lord Jesus Christ being advertized on the front page and on every other page of your life? Jesus wants “top billing”, not “honorable mention”.
The Coca-cola company used the following slogan in a song about the quality of their product: “What the world wants today is the real thing.” I hope that’s true of our world today – that more and more people are seeking the real thing. If so, let’s be the “real thing” ourselves, not cheap imitations. Let’s reflect the character and the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ to our world today. That’s what the Spirit of God will do in and through us if we’ll get out of His way and allow Him to take control. Are you ready and willing?