I found the noun “hypocrite” seventeen times in the New Testament, each of them printed in red. Jesus, the sinless Son of God, was the world’s only non-hypocrite, so He alone was worthy of calling another by this derogatory term. A hypocrite is someone who egotistically masquerades, pretending to be better than he actually is.
Jesus condemned the Pharisees for their self-righteousness and hypocritical charity. “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven. So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people” (Matthew 6:1–2). He also pointed out their hypocritical prayers. “Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people” (Matthew 6:5)
And Jesus denounced the Pharisees’ judgmental condemnation of others (Matthew 7:1-6 and Luke 6:39-42). To illustrate this, Jesus painted a picture… With a flourish of hyperbole, He told a parable.
“Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a beam of wood in your own eye? Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5).
Can you see the cartoonish picture? A large man with fury on his face is hovering over a smaller man… the smaller man seems to be crying for mercy as the bigger man’s huge paws claw at him… the small man’s eyes are open and the speck of sawdust isn’t visible… the larger, angry man, glares down with one eye, while from his other eye, a two-by-six protrudes…
The Pharisees were hypocrites, hypercritical faultfinders! If the Pharisees had a spiritual gift, it must have been the gift of criticism… does that sound like anybody you know? “Blind guides! You strain out a gnat, but gulp down a camel!”(Matthew 23:24) … more hyperbole. “Can the blind guide the blind? Won’t they both fall into a pit?” (Luke 6:39).
This passage has often been misinterpreted. It is NOT a moratorium on judging. In the very next verse, Jesus declared, “Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs” (Matthew 7:6). How can one know what is holy without judicious wisdom? A few verses down, Jesus referred to “good fruit” and “bad fruit” (Matthew 7:18). He encouraged His disciples to be fruit inspectors with a discerning spirit.
Jesus concluded the parable by encouraging brothers to hold one another accountable.
“Take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye”(Matthew 7:5). With a kind and gentle spirit, we may offer to assist a brother. “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).