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AVOIDING HYPOCRISY

Read­ing Time: 9 minutes

(Ref. Texts: Eccl 27:4–7; 1Cor 15:54–58; Luke 6:39–45)

When hypo­crisy is a char­ac­ter trait, it also affects one’s think­ing, because it con­sists in the neg­a­tion of all the aspects of real­ity that one finds dis­agree­able, irra­tion­al or repugnant. 
(Octa­vio Paz).

There are three signs of a hypo­crite: when he speaks he speaks lies, when he makes a prom­ise he breaks it, and when he is trus­ted he betrays his trust.”

Introduction

In the Gos­pel of last Sunday, we reflec­ted on Jesus’ teach­ing and admon­i­tion to the dis­ciples and Chris­ti­ans on what it means to be a believ­er. He did this by teach­ing and show­ing them the super­i­or way, which includes: The love of enemies; turn­ing the oth­er cheek; giv­ing to those who ask; doing to oth­ers what and how you would want done unto you; lend­ing without interest and without expect­ing to be paid back; doing to oth­ers as you would have them do to you; show­ing com­pas­sion to people; and not judging or con­demning oth­ers to avoid being judged or con­demned because the meas­ure and treat­ment we met out to oth­ers will be the same meas­ure and treat­ment that will be meted out to us by God. Jesus wants to save us from hypocrisy.

In this 8th Sunday, Jesus takes up anoth­er import­ant teach­ing. Hav­ing taught them the super­i­or way, Jesus expects Chris­ti­ans to be authen­t­ic and hon­est in their rela­tion­ship with one anoth­er and in their rela­tion­ship with God. In oth­er words, they must avoid hypo­crisy. hypo­crisy is insin­cer­ity by vir­tue of pre­tend­ing to have qual­it­ies or beliefs that you do not really have. In oth­er words, hypo­crisy is pre­tend­ing to be who or what you are not and not cap­able of becom­ing. This is a neg­at­ive atti­tude con­demned by Jesus in this Sunday Gos­pel reading.

Con­clud­ing his teach­ing of the super­i­or way with these words “give, and it will be giv­en to you. A good meas­ure, pressed down, shaken togeth­er, run­ning over, will be put into your lap; for the meas­ure you give will be the meas­ure you get back” (Luke 6:38), Jesus took up the teach­ing on and against hypo­crisy. These teach­ings mark the final sec­tion of Luke’s Ser­mon on the Plain. They are par­ables which must be inter­preted accur­ately. They are all about how to be a good dis­ciple and a good/faithful Christian.

Avoiding hypocrisy

He also told them a par­able: Can a blind per­son guide a blind per­son? Will not both fall into a pit?” (Luke 6:39). With the expres­sion or intro­duc­tion “he also told them a par­able”, Jesus intends what fol­lows to be a con­tinu­ation of his pre­vi­ous teach­ings. The par­able is meant to be an illus­tra­tion of the teach­ings in the pre­vi­ous verses of Luke chapter six. The par­able begins with an inter­rog­a­tion: Can a blind per­son lead anoth­er blind per­son? Jesus even went fur­ther and gave the imme­di­ate con­sequence of the blind lead­ing the blind. Again, instead of mak­ing an affirm­a­tion, he makes anoth­er inter­rog­a­tion: Will not both fall into a pit? The two iron­ic­al ques­tions should be answered in the neg­at­ive. That is, to the ques­tion: “Can a blind per­son lead anoth­er blind per­son?” We must answer, no, a blind per­son can­not and should not lead anoth­er blind per­son. Again, to the second inter­rog­a­tion which is meant to be an answer to the first inter­rog­a­tion: “Will not both fall into a pit?” We must answer yes, both of them will fall into a pit and can get injured or even lose their lives. The over­all con­clu­sion is that a blind per­son should nev­er be allowed to lead anoth­er blind per­son. If this hap­pens, then, it is hypo­crisy. The hypo­crisy is on the part of the blind per­son who pre­tends to lead anoth­er blind per­son. By so doing, he/she refuses to accept and acknow­ledge being blind and there­fore, in need of salvation.

After this ini­tial inter­rog­a­tion, Jesus con­tin­ues with oth­er inter­rog­a­tions to explain what he means by the impossib­il­ity of a blind per­son lead­ing anoth­er blind per­son. Hav­ing cla­ri­fied that both will fall into a pit, Jesus asks “why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” (Luke 6:41). To avoid any con­fu­sion, Jesus refor­mu­lates the ques­tion thus “Or how can you say to your neigh­bour, friend, let me take out the speck in your eye, when you your­self do not see the log in your own eye?” (Luke 6:42a). The inab­il­ity to see the speck in anoth­er person’s eye is due to the log in my own eye. The speck in my neighbour’s eye is less dam­aging than the log in my own eyes. If two of should go for emer­gency, I will need to be atten­ded first because my own situ­ation is more crit­ic­al. Jesus does not under­stand how a per­son with a log in his or her own eye would want to take away the speck in anoth­er person’s eye. Like the blind lead­ing anoth­er blind, it is an impossib­il­ity and very risky.

Jesus inter­venes and instructs the per­son with the log in his or her own eye on what to do. And inter­ven­ing, Jesus says “you hypo­crite! First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye” (Luke 6:42b). Jesus qual­i­fies the per­son then, tells him/her the right thing to do. A blind per­son who pre­tends to lead anoth­er blind per­son is a hypo­crite because such a per­son pre­tends to see when he or she is in the same situ­ation as the per­son he pre­tends to assist. Sim­il­arly, a per­son who has a log in his or her own eye and does not notice it, but sees the speck in anoth­er person’s eye and pre­tends to remove it, is also a hypo­crite. To avoid hypo­crisy, the per­son should first remove the log in his or her eye before he or she could see and remove the speck in another’s eye. As explained in the intro­duc­tion, a hypo­crite is a dis­hon­est and fake indi­vidu­al. He or she claims to be what or who he/she is not. And such atti­tude makes him/her a pre­tend­er, a liar and a deceiv­er. This par­able refers to the same judg­ment­al and con­dem­nat­ory atti­tudes men­tioned and dis­cour­aged in Luke 6:37.

No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush” (Luke 6:43–44). No good tree bears bad fruit means no godly per­son will be too fast to judge and con­demn oth­ers. It is also an invit­a­tion to and for the good tree to avoid the con­tam­in­a­tion of the bad tree. Just as light and dark­ness, the fruits of the good and bad trees are also incom­pat­ible. On the oth­er hand, that a bad tree can­not bear good fruit means no hypo­crite will ever see or find any­thing good in oth­ers. As the Lat­in adage puts it nemo dat quod non habet (no one gives what he/she does not have), since a hypo­crite pos­sesses no good in himself/herself, there is no way he/she could see good in oth­ers. As Jesus says, from their fruits, you shall know them (cf. Matt 7:16; 12:33). To live and pro­duce good fruit with and in your life, you must be good at the root, at the heart. The kind of love and mercy Jesus talks about is only pos­sible if we are bear­ing fruit for God and from God.

Although it is not part of this Sunday Gos­pel, how­ever, I would like to men­tion it. The last sec­tion of the Luke chapter six is about know­ing where we base our con­struc­tion (cf. Luke 6:46–49). The pas­sage is about build­ing on the sol­id found­a­tion of rock and not on sand which will be car­ried away by the wind and rain­fall. Build­ing the found­a­tion on rock accord­ing to Jesus, is the only way to face the chal­lenges and dif­fi­culties a dis­ciple will encounter. It is assur­ance to sur­viv­al. It is the only way to show that we believe in God, that we hear His word and that we put them into prac­tice. Who­ever does this, builds his or her found­a­tion on the rock which is God. Such a per­son will ever remain firm no mat­ter the kind of wind that blows.

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