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"...do not be like the hypocrites…" - Matthew 6:5 (NIV)
Every Tuesday night growing up my brother and I were glued to the TV watching our favorite leather-jacket-wearing tough guy give a thumbs up and a, “Heyyyyy,” after saving the day yet again. In the 70s, there was nobody cooler than the Fonz on the sitcom, “Happy Days.” Just look at that guy!
But apparently, off the screen, Henry Winkler was less like the Fonz and more like the nerds that he worked over as the Fonz. What a hypocrite! And now look at him peddling reverse mortgages! I give my childhood idol a big thumbs down for this transformation!
Henry Winkler was actually a great actor because on screen he was someone completely different than his real self. That’s what actors do—they play a role and most of the time it’s completely different than their true self. That works on screen, but is no way to live—especially for a Christian.
The word “hypocrite” means “actor” so even though ol’ Hank was just doing his job, he really was a hypocrite pretending to be something that he really wasn’t. Jesus said that it’s not cool to be a hypocrite—to act one way in public but live completely different in private.
This week we’ll unpack Jesus’ teaching about authenticity and being real 100% of the time. We’ll look at the dichotomy of the thumbs-up and the thumbs-down of His instruction and what’s at stake when we live a double life like Fonzi.
As you read this week, choose to hold a mirror rather than a magnifying glass. Let’s wrestle with Jesus’ teaching for US and not use it to point out faults in others.
Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper. On one side write characteristics that others see when they see you in public. On the other side write down what’s true in private. If there are any inconsistencies, pray that God will help you align your public life with your private life.Share Tweet
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.” - Matthew 6:1 (NIV)
“Two thumbs up.” That’s the phrase we used to look for so that we knew which movies were worth seeing. In the 80s, we didn’t have “Rotten Tomatoes” or any other movie ranking system. We had to rely on the judgment and taste of two fellas who broke the movies down for us. “Thumbs up” meant it was a good movie. “Thumbs down,” don’t waste your time and money.
Siskel and Ebert were our guides for how we judged what was good and bad at the movies.
“Righteousness” or “right-living” is a word used to describe God and His consistent nature and actions. Jesus expects us to live a righteous life because we are in love with the Father and want to honor Him and be like Him. Notice Jesus doesn’t say, “If you choose to live righteous…” No, what Jesus is saying implies that we’re pursuing righteousness daily and our right-living should be consistent in our nature and actions. And, our right-living gets a “thumbs-up” when our motive is to be like God, but a “thumbs-down” when we are putting on a show to impress others.
When we put on a show of righteousness to win the approval of others, we receive the reward that others give but forfeit the reward of our Father in Heaven. But when our righteousness is consistent—inside, outside, public, and private—all for the audience of One, then we receive the ultimate reward from our Father.
“When you give to the poor…” - Matthew 6:2-4 (NIV)
“Back to School” starring Rodney Dangerfield is in my top 5 comedies of all time. If I’m channel surfing and I come across Thornton Melon in his old-timey bathing suit doing a triple lindy dive from the highest platform, I’m stopping and watching. Thornton is a bajillionaire who goes back to college to support his son. While there, he spends crazy amounts of money on people, parties, and good grades and people fall in love with him. He may get a “thumbs-up” at graduation, but he gets a big time “thumbs-down” for how he used his money.
Jesus expects us to give our resources to help people who are in need. But He tells us not to make our giving into a big production. No trumpets, no cameras, no fanfare. He even stretches us to be so discreet in our generosity that one hand won’t even know what’s going on. Being generous to those in need gets a big “thumbs-up” from our Father. Giving to be seen and celebrated by other people, well that’s a big “thumbs-down.”
This is a big temptation for us. Our culture tends to celebrate when someone shows extreme generosity. The giver feels good about themselves and boasts in their gift rather than celebrating that a need has been met and God has been honored. Our resources aren’t ours to begin with. We are stewards of what God has been gracious enough to lend us. When we give things away, we’re simply putting God’s stuff to better use and He should be the One to get the credit.
Make it your goal to give discreetly to meet a need without drawing attention to yourself. Thornton Melon loved the spotlight. You strive to be content in the shadows while helping others and honoring God.
“And when you pray…” - Matthew 6:5-6 (NIV)
Jesus wants us to live a whole life that honors God and is consistent in nature and actions with God’s nature and actions. Don’t live to impress others; live a life that looks like God all the time because you love Him and want to honor Him.
Social media has great benefits in staying connected with people we don’t get to see every day. But it can also be a flimsy way to search for self-worth and can become our identity. If you’ve been on any social media platform, you’ve likely noticed a symbol like this:
With every pic, post, and tweet we get instant feedback from others and we can become obsessed with how much people “like” what we’re eating, listening to, lifting, or espousing.
Jesus said that the hypocrites stand and pray in public spaces to get “likes” from others. Their prayers were deep and flowery. Lesser praying folks were impressed with these eloquent speeches to God. However, the “thumbs-up” they received from the onlookers were the only reward they’d get. God listened to their prayer but gave them a “thumbs-down” because their motive was impure. He let them have their “likes” and “retweets,” but that’s all they got.
Jesus teaches us to make prayer personal. It’s between us and God. It’s an intimate conversation for no one’s approval. It’s not social. It’s special and spacial. I have found that writing down my prayers in my private journal is a great way to keep my words to my Father intimate and private.
“First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” - Matthew 23:25-28 (NIV)
I love the character Kramer from Seinfeld. Talk about a guy who is always the same no matter who is around! In private he might live with the Merv Griffin set as furniture or turn his walls into a ski-lodge look with wood wallpaper. He’s crazy. And in public, he’s just as crazy—whether creating a rickshaw business in NYC or making a fuss over Festivus. There was only one Kramer and everyone knew he lived a consistently crazy life.
The goal of Jesus’ teaching on hypocrisy is to challenge us to live a life that honors God because we love Him. Our lives should reflect His and be consistent in every arena we walk into. The only way we can live authentically is to start with our heart and work our way out. It doesn’t work the other way around. Pure, right, genuine living begins on the inside and bears fruit outside. It’s content in the shadows. It’s unaware of an audience. It’s not concerned with likes. It’s not seeking an Oscar.
To be obedient to Jesus’ teaching, seek to align your heart with the heart of God. Read your Bible daily, not to know more, but to be more like God. Pray more, but pray more in private having real, raw conversations with God. Serve others, but don’t serve so that you’ll feel good. Serve others so that they’ll feel good and know the love of God. Love others, but not to be loved back. Love others because that’s what Jesus did.
Go back to that list you made on Monday and evaluate your progress. Ask a close friend to hold you accountable to living a pure, hypocrisy-free life. Your pure life on the inside will blossom in full on the outside to the benefit of others and the glory of God. And at the right time, you’ll receive God’s amazing “thumbs-up” which will last for all of eternity.Share Tweet