Remember the old TV show, The Lone Ranger? He would show up and do a good deed, which always led to the question: “Who was that masked man?” In the distance, you would hear him say, “Hi ho, Silver...away!”
Personally speaking, I don’t have a lot of experience in wearing masks, except for when I was a kid on Halloween. We would get those cheap, dime-store rubber masks and run around. We would breathe that smelly rubber all night long, knowing we would have our haul of candy to enjoy later on.
Jesus warned His followers about hiding behind a mask, or pretending to be someone we are really not.
The word He chose to describe it was hypocrisy, which means “to hide behind a mask.” In Greek theater of that day, actors would hold masks in front of their faces when they were playing a part.
So hypocrisy is trying to be someone you’re really not. Jesus was saying, “Don’t hide behind a mask. Be real. Don’t be a hypocrite.”
Perhaps Jesus gave this warning at this time, because the disciples might have been tempted either to gain popularity by pleasing the crowds or to avoid trouble by pleasing the scribes and Pharisees.
Luke’s Gospel tells us, “In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, ‘Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy’ ” (Luke 12:1 nkjv).
This is a part of our human nature. We want to be accepted. We want to fit in. So Jesus said, “Be careful. Don’t be a hypocrite.”
How does hypocrisy spread in our lives? Notice that Jesus said, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”
Leaven is yeast, which is a rising agent. In the Bible, it is always symbolic of evil. It is something that works in secret with penetrating power, starting small and working its way through our lives.
That is why we must carefully guard against it. Little things inevitably lead to big things. Often we will rationalize a sinful act, telling ourselves it’s just one time. But that one thing ultimately leads to other things.
Case in point: King David. I seriously doubt that when he looked lustfully at the beautiful Bathsheba, he thought he would engage in adultery, then murder, and ultimately bring scandal on his kingdom. But that is exactly what happened. A small thing became a big thing.
Hypocrisy is futile and foolish, and Jesus explained why: “For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops” (Luke 12:2–3 nkjv).
Simply put, there are no secrets with God. Whatever you try to hide will surface one day.
The problem was that the Pharisees were more concerned with their reputation than with their character. They were more concerned with what people thought about them than what God knew about them.
Yet the Bible warns about fearing man instead of God: “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25 nkjv).
The remedy for hypocrisy is to forget about what people say and do and instead fear God alone. Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…” (nkjv).
The Bible teaches that a day is coming when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ. It all will become known.
But here’s the good news: If you have been living a righteous life, then that will be acknowledged too. Whatever you have been doing will ultimately break ground one day, and you will have cultivated a crop of it. You’ll reap what you sow.
If you are sowing to the flesh, you will reap corruption. But if you are sowing to the spirit, then you will reap life everlasting (see Galatians 6:8).
Today, can the question be asked of you, “Who was that masked man?” or “Who was that masked woman?”
Fear may cause us to back down on what we believe, especially in the presence of others who don’t hold the same views. It might cause us to put on a mask, so to speak.But remember what Jesus said. Be real. And don’t be a hypocrite.
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!