What Does the Bible Say About Pretenders and Hypocrisy?

Pretenders and hypocrisy anger God as they directly contradict His very nature – truth and love. The Bible warns believers to check their own hearts, live out their faith actively, and be on the lookout for false teachers.

A pretender or a hypocrite is someone who says one thing and does another. Their outward appearance contradicts their heart. God has a lot to say about pretenders and hypocrisy in His Word. Let’s take a closer look.

Hypocrisy and Pretenders in the Bible

God’s view of hypocrisy and pretenders is clearly communicated in the Bible. There are narratives of deception, disrespect, the consequences, and God’s grace in the lives of the individuals involved. There are warnings in Proverbs and Psalms and there are direct instructions about hypocrisy in the letters to the church.

There are no instances where hypocrisy is tolerated by God. Hypocrisy is contrary to the truth and so it goes against the very nature of God (John 14:6). It is a sin, it is to be identified and repented from. While hypocrites may be able to fool man, they cannot fool God who sees into the hearts of men (1 Sam 16:7).

Believers are to be aware of hypocrisy in their own lives, as well as in the church. Scripture repeatedly warns believers about the dangers of pretenders: false teachers, false prophets. Believers must measure everything against the truth of God’s Word, the Gospel message, and the fruit they see in people’s lives (including their own).

Significant Mentions of Hypocrisy in the Bible

Hypocrisy is mentioned many times in both the Old and New Testaments. The New Testament examples are especially relevant to believers as they are addressed to the church. Let’s look at some specific examples and warnings in the scriptures.

Hypocrisy in the Old Testament

Psalm 26:2-4 ESV: Prove me, O LORD, and try me; test my heart and my mind. For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness. I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites.

Here, the songwriter communicates three things. First, the Lord judges a person’s heart and mind. Second, the response to God’s love is to walk in faithfulness. And third, this upright person is to have nothing to do with hypocrites or deceivers.

When it comes to pretenders, the story that stands out the most has got to be Jacob. He deceived his father, Isaac, into receiving the blessing by disguising himself as Esau by Rebekah’s (his mother’s) design. 

Genesis 27:19-24 ESV: Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me.” But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” He answered, “Because the LORD your God granted me success.” Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.” So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, who felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands. So he blessed him. He said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He answered, “I am.”

His pretending and deception didn’t stop God from accomplishing great things through Jacob, who became the father to the twelve sons who founded the twelve tribes of Israel (Jacob’s new name). What grace!

Hypocrisy in the New Testament

The book of Matthew is full to the brim of warnings and references to hypocrisy. Here are just a few.

Matthew 7:4-5 ESV Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Here Jesus is reminding his followers to remain focused on their own sin, rather than judge others for theirs. A person who is continually aware of their own sin (i.e humble, Christ-reliant) is able to serve and disciple others more effectively. 

Matthew 23:27-28 ESV “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” 

In this passage, Jesus is rebuking the religious leaders who “put on a show” but lack love in their hearts for those they are leading. Their motives for doing all the right things are arrogant and selfish. In this chapter, Christ declares “woe to you” six times against the Pharisees and scribes – a repeated declaration of his righteous anger against them! 

Matthew 7:15-16 ESV “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits.”

Matthew 7:21 ESV “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

James 1:22 ESV But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

The test of hypocrisy is simple. Genuine faith will result in a life full of good works (good fruit), from doing the will of God. Hypocrites say all the right things but do not live them out, they don’t bear any good fruit – this is a dead faith (James 2:17)

The Bible’s Take on Hypocrisy and Pretenders

God makes it clear in His Word that He does not tolerate hypocrisy and pretenders. Hypocrisy and pretending is a form of lying and deception and it angers God. It’s often a sign of deeper insecurities. Truth describes the very nature of God. Christians, therefore, are to live lives that are based on the truth, be able to recognize pretenders (false teachers) and turn away from hypocrisy both in their own lives and in the church.  

That said, we should be gracious with anyone who live hypocritically. We ourselves are likely too as well from time to time. Let’s not hold grudges and live with grace.

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