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Showing posts with label #Hypocrisy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #Hypocrisy. Show all posts

07 May 2019


When we think we’ve found exceptions to Jesus’s expectations.

Popular culture, especially popular Christian culture, uses the word Pharisee as a synonym for legalist. That’s what we presume the Pharisees’ problem was: They overdid it on God’s commands. They had all these additional rules they insisted people follow, and it meant they not only missed the point of all the commands they meant to uphold, but all the grace.

Thing is, Jesus calls them hypocrites.

Legalists are many things. Like graceless, unloving, impatient, unkind, dispassionate towards people ’cause all their passion is for their doctrines. But hypocrite means someone who’s pretending to be what they’re not. And for the most part, legalists truly are legalistic. They’re not faking anything: They really do nitpick commands all the way down to the most unreasonable details. They really do judge people harshly on these details. And even though many can rightly be accused of holding people to standards they themselves don’t follow, many of ’em do follow their own standards: “I don’t have any trouble memorizing an entire bible chapter a day. So what’s your problem? Looks to me like rebelliousness.” I mean, yeah they’re quick to judge and kinda heartless, but often they do have integrity—which ain’t hypocrisy.

So why did Jesus call Pharisees hypocrites? Because some Pharisees were legalists. And the rest—the majority—were not. But they pretended to be. They actually were hypocrites.

We assume Pharisees were legalist because they had a ton of customs and rules they added to the bible. We still have most of them; they were collected into the Mishna, which is the core of the Talmud, one of the two main books of rabbinic Judaism. (The other’s the Tanakh, which we call the Old Testament.) But if you actually read the Mishna, you discover… a lot of these customs and rules are actually loopholes. No foolin’.

Take this ruling in the Mishna. The topic is ritual sacrifices. Some you ate; some you burned entirely. And sometimes the ancient Judeans wanted to know if they could just burn part of an animal, and have that count… and eat the rest. It’s like the half-caff version of a sin offering.

Temurah 1.3 KWL
Don’t substitute a leg for a fetus, nor fetuses for limbs.
Don’t substitute a leg nor fetus for a whole animal, nor whole animals for them.
Yet R. Yoseh says a leg can be substituted for a whole animal—but not whole animals for legs.
R. Yoseh says, “Isn’t it the rule for sacred animals
that when one says, ‘This leg is for burnt offering,’ the whole animal is a burnt offering?
Likewise if one says, ‘This leg instead of that leg,’ all of it is a substitution in its place.”

So, according to Yoseh, it totally counts. Why “waste” an entire sin offering on God anyway?

See, some Pharisees were looking for ways to follow the Law better, more devoutly, in order to grow closer to God. Like Nicodemus; like Paul, who overzealously went the wrong way till Jesus redirected him the right way. But the rest of the Pharisees were looking for ways to make the Law far less work on them. Less duty. Less charity. Less obedience… but they could point to the bare-minimum effort they exerted, and claim, “But I am obedient. I’m doing as the rabbis taught.”

Looked like religion; actually was irreligion. So Jesus called it hypocrisy, because that’s exactly what it is.

And of course we Christians do the very same thing. We likewise look for loopholes in the bible, in God’s laws, in Jesus’s instructions, in the apostles’ teachings. We’re pretty sure we found plenty: Huge swaths of the bible, we claim, don’t apply to us. The Old Testament doesn’t count ’cause we’re under the New Testament. Or we’re in a different dispensation; we’re under grace not Law. We have freedom in Christ and following any guidelines is legalism and slavery. Whatever excuse helps us get out of our obligation to be good and faithful servants of our Master, and be good as God defines goodness.

28 November 2018

Hypocrites. They’re everywhere.

The reason pagans assume Christians are phonies is ’cause we are. So let’s stop that.

HYPOCRISY hə'pɑk.rə.si noun Pretense: Practice of claiming beliefs or moral standards which one doesn’t truly have.
2. Inconsistency: Practice of claiming beliefs or moral standards, but one’s own behavior demonstrates otherwise.
[Hypocrite 'hɪp.ə.krɪt noun, hypocritical |hɪp.ə'krɪd.ə.kəl| adjective.]

The Greek word ypókrisis literally means “over [the] face.” In the ancient Greek religion, whenever someone claimed they spoke for the gods, they’d put on a bit of a show. When a man claimed Zeus spoke through him, he’d assume a deep voice, exaggerated gestures, and perform a sorta impersonation of Zeus. (Since we’re talking about fake gods, it was totally an act.)

Comic and tragic masks. Wikimedia

This “prophetic” acting evolved into Greek drama. Certain “gifted” poets, whom the Greeks believed had some divinely-inspired prophetic ability, would have actors memorize their “revelations” and present them to audiences. So you’d know who was playing whom, actors would wear masks; so the folks in the back of the theater knew whether the actors were happy or sad (’cause the actors weren’t always good at their jobs), masks might have exaggerated features. You know those happy and sad masks, associated with drama and the theater? Don’t worry; I included a picture. Anyway, ypókrisis turned into the word for “actor.”

Don’t get the wrong idea: There’s nothing wrong with acting. Well, so long that people know it’s an act. When they don’t, it’s fraud.

So when Jesus borrowed the term to describe certain Pharisees, he meant they were acting. But hiding it; therefore fraud. And Jesus wasn’t happy about the fraud. Pissed him off more than anything.

Matthew 23.1-7 KWL
1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and his students, 2 saying,
“In Moses’s judgment seat sit the scribes and Pharisees.
3 So you must do, and revere, everything Pharisees might say.
But don’t do according to their works—for Pharisees say, and don’t do.
4 Pharisees tie up heavy, hard-to-carry burdens and place them on people’s shoulders.
And they don’t want to move them with their fingers.
5 Pharisees do all their works for people to see:
They widen their prayer-straps and lengthen their tassels.
6 Pharisees love the first couch at dinner and the first seat in synagogue,
7 and to be greeted in market and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by people.”

Every so often it’s a good idea for us Christians to swap the word “Pharisee” with “Christian” and see whether it still fits. Annoyingly, it still largely does.