“Hypocrite!” That’s a charge oft heard by people who believe something and then

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Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits. ~Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson’s Calendar for 1894

because of their human weaknesses somehow fail to live up to the standards they have set for themselves or others. So the other day I decided to study the word to discover what those ugly nine letters are all about.

The word hypocrite comes from the Greek word which is pronounced almost exactly as we pronounce it today. Its origin was in the ancient Greek theater where actors wore masks to hide their real faces while they played the parts of others – they were pretenders or hypocrites. Fortunately the word no longer applies to those who perform on the stage but to those who pretend in everyday life.

I think you would agree that there are many hypocrites out there but not just in the church (where there are, I must admit, plenty).

There’s a guy somewhere who had the Ten Commandments tattooed on his back. He must have been quite religious, don’t you think? My thought was why didn’t he have them tattooed upside down on his stomach where he could review them from time to time?

Have you noticed the athletes who genuflect before they step up to bat or who, right after they make a touchdown, take a knee and bow as if they are praying? Is it possible that this, for some, is just a show? I do.

The most common hypocrisy among politicians are the wealthy elite who get elected then raise taxes while they do everything possible to avoid paying taxes on their billion dollar estates. Then there’s the politician that runs on the platform that he is “pro life” but when the opportunity to confirm a judge that might vote to outlaw abortions he suddenly does something different. Pretenders. Hypocrites.

Main Street business people too: A great preacher of the last century observed, “When you see a man with a great deal of religion displayed in his shop window, you may depend upon it he keeps a very small stock of it within.” – Charles H. Spurgeon

Some of the worst hypocrites are the rappers and rockers who denigrate women, call for cops to be killed, promote drug use, and wallow in all kinds of depravity while they wear big gold crosses around their necks and perform using religious icons as props.

Some years ago a man was absolutely insistent that his daughter have a lavish wedding invoking all the blessings of the church on the marriage of his daughter. He spared no expense to see that the clergyman involved would provide the religious blessings he thought important to the event.

On the day of the wedding the father, along with the rest of the family, showed up by droves to the wedding. They were all decked out in their tuxedos and lovely dresses and a special group piety put on for the hour or so they were at the church. The congregation even added their “amen” to the clergyman’s prayers.

Yet everyone in attendance was a hypocrite, a phony, a person who pretended to have moral or religious beliefs that he/she did not actually possess. You see, the family owned a chain of porno theaters in a nearby city and everyone at the church knew it except the clergyman. It was all a show.

And now, what about you and me? We are hypocrites as well for we have pretended a level of piety that belied the reality of our every-day lives. Each of us have said one thing and done another – often. We have all preached sermons to others with no intention of applying them to our own lives. We have each demanded justice for the other but mercy for ourselves.

Since hypocrisy is a matter of pretending to be one kind of person while being another, I’m afraid we are all quite guilty. And since we are all hypocrites could it be said that the one who detests hypocrisy the most may be the biggest hypocrite of all?

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