Mattot and Masei
For the week of July 10, 1999 / 26 Tammuz 5759
Bemidbar / Numbers 30:2 - 36:13
Haftarah: Jeremiah 2:4-28, 3:4

True Hypocrisy

Have you not just called to me: "My Father, my friend from my youth, will you always be angry? Will your wrath continue forever?" This is how you talk, but you do all the evil you can (Jeremiah 3:4,5).

Hypocrisy is one of the most common charges against organized religion. The word "hypocrite" is from the Greek meaning, "actor." To be a hypocrite is to pretend that you are something that you are not.

This week’s portion closes with the isolated verse, "Have you not just called to me: ‘My Father, my friend from my youth’"(Jeremiah 3:4). This expression of devotion marks that kind of talk common among spiritual people. And yet the verse does not stop there. God confronts the people, saying, "This is how you talk, but you do all the evil you can" (Jeremiah 3:5).

The people were claiming devotion, but their lives did not reflect the reality they claimed. Their lives were a complete contradiction of how they presented themselves.

The fact is none of us can attain to the lofty traits we espouse. We are frail human beings who make mistakes. We tend towards bad behavior, yet do not easily admit it. In our attempt to better ourselves, we continually run the risk of being hypocrites.

Hypocrisy is an inherent danger among religious people. That is because many religions value good inner human characteristics. Most members of synagogues and churches will say that they value love, honesty, loyalty, purity, and so on. And yet to live up to these aspirations is very difficult, if not impossible. The expectations to be a certain way in many religious communities creates pressure among its adherents to pretend to be better than they really are.

Freedom from hypocrisy is not found by becoming better people, but in honestly admitting our failures. It is in this admittance that we can find God. The New Covenant says,

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8,9).

True hypocrisy is being a hypocrite and not admitting it. Let’s admit our hypocrisy and find freedom.

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