The Guilt of Hypocrisy
Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? Luke 11: 40
Hypocrite! It is one of the most highly charged words in the English language. It is a word full of accusation. We are quick to spot the hypocricy of others, but it is rare that we see it in ourselves. And yet. And yet. We have all been guilty of hypocrisy at one time or another, either out of our ignorance, or worse, we have purposely made ourselves look beautiful on the outside while hiding our own inner, selfish, or dark intentions.
Luke 11:37-40 tells us about Jesus being invited by one of the Pharisees to eat at his house. Jesus accepted the invitation, even though the Pharisees had been assiduously trying to find ways to quiet him, or even to get rid of him. We have read the scriptures enough to know that Jesus has a reason for accepting this invitation. We know, too, that what he will say to the Pharisee is also meant for us. When Jesus entered and reclined at the table, the Pharisee smugly admonished Jesus for not observing the washing ritual before meals. Jesus knew these customs. Was he just being careless? No. Every action and word of Jesus has a living purpose. Jesus responds to the Pharisee’s admonishment very forcefully. “Oh, you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside?” Well, there it is. The Pharisees, preached the Torah with the authority of their august positions in the community, placing increasingly heavy burdens of more and more laws on the people, demanding more and more Temple taxes, and yet they lived extravagantly, heeding few of their own preachings and demands.
Hypocrisy, for most of us, results from a lack of honest self-reflection. We may be very critical of others faults, but not see our own. Jesus, in addressing the Pharisee here, is not doing it to condemn him but, in essence, to “bat the ball back into his court,” to give him and opportunity to look within at his own behavior, his own motivations, to see that he is not as righteous as he demands others to be. He is giving the Pharisee (and us) something to think about, something to address within himself (ourselves), for his (our own) good. He is giving the Pharisee (and us) the opportunity to see his (our own) hypocrisies, to feel sorrow for them and to decide to amend his (our own) behavior, in the light of the truth.
Let us, then, take this passage to our own prayers. Let us reflect on our own capacity to make ourselves look good on the outside while being not so “clean” on the inside. Jesus admonishes us because he loves us. He wants us to be honest with ourselves, to choose to clean our insides as well as we “clean up” our outsides. He will forgive us. He will also give us the grace to be good and holy inside as well as outside, if we but turn to him. Such is his love for us. To remain a hypocrite, after all, is foolish. For God, who is the One who made the inside and the outside of each and every one of us, sees all, no matter how “clean” our public persona appears to others.