Bible understanding – What is a Hypocrite?

bible

It isn’t uncommon to hear people referred to as hypocrites. What is really meant by the word, though?

According to dictionary.com, the meaning of hypocrite is:

1.
a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.
2.
a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements.

One of the things we know about language is that it changes over time. So when the term is used in the Bible, in light of the fact that the Bible was written so very long ago, was the meaning the same? It is safe to say that the meaning was similar to how we use the word today, but not exactly the same.

The differences help us to know Jesus better, as should be seen. But first, what did the term mean 2,000 years ago?

The word hypocrite comes from both the Latin hypocrita and the Greek hypokrites. The word meant ‘actor’.

It needs to be understood that in Jesus’ day, the theater and specifically plays were an exceptionally important form of recreation and entertainment. Nearly every town had a theater. The importance isn’t unlike how movies and television programs are today, except that wealthy people were the ones most able to go to the theater. People who were affluent were the ones that knew the most about the theater and the plays. The actors, or literally hypocrites, were held in high esteem for their ability to pretend to be something they weren’t, in order to entertain the people.

It is easy to see how the modern definition came into being. The meaning in the bible isn’t much different, but knowing where the word originated from and how it was commonly used gives us a lot of insight, in a surprising way.

In Matthew 6:5,6, Jesus said, “5 And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrite, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

He again uses the word in Matthew 7:4,5: “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Both passages from the NIV Bible.)

In the first case, Jesus was talking about prayer and how to pray. In the second, He was talking about judging others. Try reading both passages, substituting the word Actor for Hypocrite. You might notice that the meaning is the same, but the impact is even greater.

How does this let us know Jesus any better? The words in the passages above are His and He always chose his words carefully. The use of the term that referred to actors, though, is quite interesting. Jesus was using a word that showed how easily he could speak to the affluent and not just to the poor and downtrodden. The ability to speak to people of various castes or positions in life is a tremendous one, if a person wanted to bring a message of hope, joy and love to everyone, which Jesus obviously did.

This lets us see another great talent of Jesus while also letting us know that the message from the Bible was meant for all men. It wasn’t just intended for a small sub-group or even to a single country, but for all men.

There is powerful meaning in both of the above passages that we can use in our everyday lives. Beyond that, though, isn’t God awesome for intending for all people, everywhere, to benefit from the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus? God is Amazing!


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Bible Misunderstandings – Eye of the Needle

camel

There has been substantial discussion about the scriptural passage that reads, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” [Matthew 19:24 NIV]. The speaker was Jesus and the question people keep tripping over is what was meant by ‘the eye of a needle’?

Many people have said that the reference was to the east gate of Jerusalem. The gate is small, barely wide enough for a camel to fit through. Thus, they say that a loaded camel would need to be unloaded before it could pass through the gate. While it is indeed true that a camel would need to be unloaded before it could go through a narrow gate, there is no indication that the east gate of Jerusalem, or any other gate in Jerusalem, was ever called ‘the eye of a needle’ or ‘the eye’.

Other people firmly believe that the camel spoken about was mistakenly translated. They point out that in the ancient Aramaic language, the word for ‘camel’ was the same as the word for ‘rope’. Thus, they claim, the word should have been translated to rope, rather than camel. For a rope to pass through the eye of a needle, it would first need to be unraveled, which would be time-consuming and hard.

While the argument goes on, I can’t help but wonder why? The passage is about a rich man and the kingdom of God. It isn’t about the eye of a needle or a camel. I should say that there were indeed needles with eyes being used at that time and long before Jesus was even born, too.

The scripture, slightly rephrased, was also used by Mark [Mark 10:25] and yet again by Luke [18:25], so it is undoubtedly important. Still, I believe that the confusion comes from trying to decipher something that doesn’t need to be.

It wasn’t uncommon for Jesus to speak in parables when he was impressing an important point. For the greatest impact, he also frequently used conflicting terms that were ridiculous, much as we might say, “I am so tired I could sleep for a week” or “I could eat a horse”. Obviously, we are neither going to actually sleep for a week or eat a horse.

Just suppose for a moment that Jesus meant it to come out exactly as he said it; that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God? It is pretty easy to visualize trying to fit a camel through the eye of a needle, isn’t it? Jesus said it almost 2,000 years ago, but the saying still has clear meaning because of the ridiculous contrast.

There is no reason to debate what was meant, since if it is taken at face value, the meaning is plain. This is the problem with trying to over think something in an attempt to get greater meaning than what is right there and is as clear as glass.

Incidentally, Jesus also wasn’t necessarily speaking of someone who had material wealth, either. Several people, such as Solomon, were quite wealthy and were still favored by God. However, that is a different topic.


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Do You Get Stressed Out During Christmastime?

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For many Christians, from about December 1 through Christmas and beyond is a hectic time, putting it mildly. Decorating, buying gifts, dealing with often-cranky crowds, sometimes dealing with bad weather conditions, baking, dinner planning and cooking, finances, possibly travel, wrapping gifts, the needed details that must be worked out and the like can take their toll. If there are children living at home, they are usually home for the holy day, too. Then there is also the house cleaning, which always exists but what takes on special urgency if any guests will drop by.

This can be a tremendously stressful time, even if you really enjoy the holidays. If you are stressing out, please realize that it is not supposed to be that way and it is usually a sign that your focus may be a little askew. Don’t worry, that happens to almost all of us. When it does, we need to get the focus back where it belongs.

Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” [John 16:33 NIV] Notice they part about in Him, we have peace and in the world, we have tribulation. A peaceful heart is one that is tranquil and without stress. Stress is tribulation, which Jesus says is what we will get from the world. The truth of this is evident.

What am I getting at? Simply this; it is the focus on the worldly things that is causing the stress. What is the Christmas celebration? When we celebrate Christmas, it isn’t about feasting or giving and receiving gifts or even getting together with friends and loved ones. Oh, that is done and there is certainly nothing wrong with that, if the focus is right. I know, I keep mentioning focus. The focus I’m talking about is the meaning and reason we are actually celebrating. We are celebrating the birth of Jesus. It doesn’t even matter that he was actually born in the spring, since the 25th day of December is when His birthday is celebrated around the world.

We need to remember that this is the entire purpose of the holiday. Everything else that was initially mentioned as being causes of stress are worldly things. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be part of the celebration. I enjoy cooking and eating the Christmas feast. I enjoy giving gifts. I love the Christmas lights and decorations. However, in terms of what is the most important part of the celebration, those things aren’t it. It is the birth of Jesus that is important. It is about Him, it isn’t about us.

An amazing thing happens when things are put in the proper perspective and the focus is put back on Jesus, where it belongs. The gifts, the feast, the crowds, the shopping and everything else all the sudden becomes far less stressful. We can start to see that what is truly important is that we are glorifying Jesus.

When you start feeling stressed from the holiday, take a moment to realize that the stress is simply the tribulation of worldly things. Give a prayer of thanks that we have a loving and wonderful Father and let yourself, just for a moment since that is all it takes, realize how awesome Jesus is. The peace can then enter your soul, and this is what the loving Father intended for us to have.

Remember that when Jesus was born, a host of angels praised God, saying:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors.” [Luke 2:14 NIV] The favored of God are those who believe in Jesus, believe in his resurrection, have asked forgiveness and who praise our loving God. Clearly even the angels recognized that Jesus was born to fulfill the promise of peace and salvation.

Let Jesus be the focus during this time of year, as it should be. You will be allowing the master of peace to give you the peace that God intended us all to have.

Merry Christmas, and to my friends in the Philippines, Maligayamg Pasko! Praise be to Him.

Bright Blessings


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