The Meaning of Hypocrisy in the Bible: Definition and Examples

  • Billy Cobb
  • Jul 06, 2023
The Meaning of Hypocrisy in the Bible: Definition and Examples

What is Hypocrisy in the Bible?

Hypocrisy is a common theme in the Bible. It is described as the act of pretending to have moral standards or beliefs that one does not truly possess. In the New Testament, the Pharisees were known for their hypocrisy. They would often criticize Jesus and his disciples for not following the strict Jewish laws, while they themselves did not follow them either. They were more concerned with appearances and maintaining their reputation than truly following God’s laws.

Jesus often warned his followers about the dangers of hypocrisy. In Matthew 23, he referred to the Pharisees as “hypocrites” multiple times and exposed their false teachings. In verse 13, he said, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” Jesus was warning his followers not to be like the Pharisees, but to be true to themselves and to God.

Another example of hypocrisy in the Bible comes in the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. They sold a piece of property but kept back some of the money for themselves, pretending to give the full amount to the church. When Peter confronts them about it, they lie and say that they had given the entire amount. As a result, they are struck dead for their deceit.

Paul also addresses hypocrisy in his letters to the churches. In Romans 12:9, he says, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” He is urging believers to live genuinely and to love without any pretense or deceit. In Galatians 6:7, he warns, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” He is saying that those who live hypocritical lives will ultimately face the consequences of their actions.

In summary, hypocrisy is a serious issue in the Bible. It is a warning to believers to be true to themselves and to God, and to avoid the temptation to pretend to be something they are not. By being genuine and sincere in our faith, we can honor God and live with integrity.

Definition of Hypocrisy in the Bible

The Bible defines hypocrisy as the act of pretending to be something one is not or feigning to believe something that one does not truly believe. It is an insincere and deceptive practice, involving a disconnect between one’s outward profession of faith and one’s inner thoughts and actions. Jesus was a stern critic of hypocrisy, often using the term to refer to the religious authorities of his day who put on a show of piety but had hearts that were far from God. In Matthew 23:27-28, he says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

According to the Bible, hypocrisy is a sin that is particularly abhorrent to God. Proverbs 11:20 states, “Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the Lord, but those of blameless ways are his delight.” Furthermore, Jesus warns that hypocrites will face severe judgement at the final judgement. In Matthew 24:51, he says, “And will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

It’s important to note that hypocrisy does not refer to someone who struggles with sin and falls short of God’s standards. Rather, it refers to those who put on a facade of righteousness while harboring sinful thoughts and actions. The Bible teaches that all people are sinners in need of God’s grace and salvation. As such, the Christian faith is not about pretending to be perfect, but rather acknowledging one’s imperfections and relying on God’s grace to transform one’s heart and life.

In summary, the Bible defines hypocrisy as the act of pretending to be something one is not or feigning to believe something that one does not truly believe. It is an insincere and deceptive practice that is particularly abhorrent to God. As Christians, we are called to be honest about our struggles with sin and to rely on God’s grace to transform our hearts and lives.

Types of Hypocrisy in the Bible

Throughout the Bible, there are different forms of hypocrisy that are condemned by God. It is important to understand these forms so that we can identify them in our lives and work on changing ourselves.

Pharisaical Hypocrisy

Pharisaical hypocrisy refers to the fake piety that was displayed by the Pharisees. They followed every letter of the law but did not have a genuine love for God or their fellow man. Jesus often rebuked them for their hypocrisy, calling them “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27). This kind of hypocrisy easily leads to pride and self-righteousness, causing us to miss the whole point of God’s law which is to love Him and love others.

Public Hypocrisy

Public hypocrisy is when a person puts on a show of piety in front of others but in reality, their heart is filled with sin. In Matthew 6:5, Jesus warned against this when He said, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, 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.” It is important to check our motives when we do good deeds or pray in public and ensure that it is not for the praise of men but for the glory of God.

Self-Deceptive Hypocrisy

Self-deceptive hypocrisy is when a person deceives themselves, thinking that they are living a righteous life while ignoring the sin in their heart. In James 1:22, it says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves”. This is dangerous because it can lead to a hardening of the heart and a refusal to repent, hindering growth in our spiritual lives. We need to ask God to reveal any hidden sin in our lives and confess it to Him, so that we can have true repentance and be cleansed by Jesus’ blood.

Hypocrisy in Worship

Hypocrisy in worship is when a person’s heart is far from God while they go through the motions of worship. Isaiah 29:13 says, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” True worship requires a heart that is surrendered to God, not just a routine or tradition.

Hypocrisy in Judgment

Hypocrisy in judgment is when a person is quick to judge others but is blind to their own faults. In Matthew 7:3, Jesus said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” This kind of hypocrisy is destructive and can lead to a critical spirit that alienates others and causes division. We need to approach others with humility and grace, seeking to understand rather than condemn.


These are just a few examples of the different forms of hypocrisy in the Bible. Through reading the Word of God and examining our hearts, we can identify any areas of hypocrisy in our lives and ask God to help us overcome them. As Romans 12:9 says, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” Let us strive to have a sincere love for God and others, while clinging to what is good and true.

Examples of Hypocrisy in the Bible

The Bible is full of stories featuring acts of hypocrisy. Here are just a few examples:

The Pharisees

The Pharisees were a group of Jewish leaders who were known for their strict adherence to religious laws and traditions. However, they were often criticized by Jesus for their hypocrisy. In Matthew 23, Jesus says to the Pharisees, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”

Ananias and Sapphira

In the book of Acts, Ananias and Sapphira sell a piece of property and give some of the proceeds to the apostles. However, they lie and say that they have given the entire amount. When Peter confronts them, Ananias falls down and dies, followed shortly by his wife. Peter says to Sapphira, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

The Rich Young Man

In Matthew 19, a rich young man asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor. The young man goes away sad because he is very wealthy. Jesus then says to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 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.”

The Prodigal Son’s Older Brother

In Luke 15, Jesus tells the story of a father who has two sons. The younger son asks for his inheritance early and squanders it on sinful living. When he returns home, the father throws a party to celebrate his return. The older son, who had stayed at home and worked for his father, becomes angry and refuses to join the celebration. The older son says to his father, “All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.”

These stories serve as reminders to examine our own lives and make sure we are not guilty of hypocrisy. They also show us that Jesus values mercy, justice, and humility over outward shows of piety or wealth.

Hypocrisy in Today’s Society

Hypocrisy is a term that has been around for centuries, and it refers to the act of pretending to have beliefs, opinions or values that are not in line with one’s true self. In today’s society, we can witness numerous cases of hypocrisy, from individuals to institutions, and even governments. The Bible, being one of the oldest books in history, has a lot to say about hypocrisy. Biblical teachings and lessons can be applied in our present time to help us deal with this social issue and how to avoid it.

Some of the key teachings of the Bible concerning hypocrisy include honesty, integrity, and sincerity. The Bible encourages Christians to be transparent and genuine in their beliefs. Jesus himself warned his followers to beware of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, who were known to be hypocrites. In Matthew 23:27-28, Jesus says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

Social media is one of the platforms that have made hypocrisy more prevalent in today’s society. People can easily create a false persona and pretend to be someone they are not. Social media influencers, politicians, and celebrities often preach one thing, while their actions say something else entirely. The Bible teaches us to be true to ourselves and to avoid hypocrisy. “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you–unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

In addition to the individuals who portray hypocrisy, institutions such as churches and other religious organizations can also fall into the trap of pretending to be something they are not. The Bible advises believers to be wary of such institutions and to steer clear of hypocrisy. The church should be a place of love and acceptance and not a place for judgment and condemnation. “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3-5).

The government is another sector that is not exempted from hypocrisy. Politicians often make empty promises to gain power or to further their agenda, but their actions say otherwise. The Bible teaches us to be truthful and to speak the truth. “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak the truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25).

In conclusion, hypocrisy is an issue that is prevalent in today’s society, and it is something that everyone must be aware of. Biblical teachings and lessons can be applied to help us avoid hypocrisy and stay true to ourselves. As Christians, we are called to live our lives transparently and to avoid any form of hypocrisy. “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same” (Romans 13:3).

How to Avoid Hypocrisy in Our Lives

As human beings, we are all susceptible to falling into the trap of hypocrisy. We may have the best intentions and the purest of hearts, but it’s easy to lose sight of our values and beliefs when we’re faced with difficult situations or when we’re trying to fit in with certain groups of people. However, it’s important to recognize the damage that hypocrisy can cause and take steps to avoid it. Here are some practical ways that we can prevent ourselves from being hypocritical in our day-to-day lives:

1. Practice What You Preach

The first and most important step in avoiding hypocrisy is to live by the values and beliefs that you promote to others. This means that you need to practice what you preach, rather than just paying lip service to certain ideals. If you’re telling others to be honest, then you need to be honest yourself. If you’re advocating for kindness and compassion, then you need to show kindness and compassion in your own actions. By living in accordance with your own values, you avoid the appearance of being inconsistent or fake.

2. Be Self-Aware

The next step to avoid hypocrisy is to be self-aware. This means being honest with yourself about your own flaws and limitations. Recognize that you’re not perfect and that you may make mistakes from time to time. When you’re aware of your own weaknesses, you can take steps to avoid situations that may trigger your hypocritical tendencies. You can also work to improve yourself and become a better person, rather than just pretending to be one.

3. Be Honest with Others

Another important step in avoiding hypocrisy is to be honest with others. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not or project a false image of yourself to others. This will only lead to feelings of guilt and shame, and can damage your relationships with those around you. Be authentic and genuine in your interactions with others, even if it means admitting your own flaws or limitations. When you’re honest with others, you’re also more likely to hold yourself accountable for your own actions and avoid being a hypocrite.

4. Don’t Judge Others

One of the biggest traps of hypocrisy is judging others for their actions while excusing your own. It’s easy to point fingers and criticize others for their mistakes, but this only serves to make you look like a hypocrite. Instead of judging others, try to approach them with compassion and understanding. Recognize that everyone makes mistakes and that we’re all doing the best we can with the resources we have. When you approach others with this mindset, you’re less likely to hold them to impossible standards and more likely to be kind and forgiving when they fall short.

5. Be Humble

Another important way to avoid hypocrisy is to cultivate a sense of humility. Don’t assume that you know everything or that your way is the only right way. Be open to learning from others and be willing to admit when you’re wrong. When you’re humble, you’re also less likely to become defensive or judgmental, which can lead to hypocritical behavior. Instead, you’re more likely to be open-minded and compassionate, which will help you avoid the pitfalls of hypocrisy.

6. Forgive Yourself and Others

Finally, it’s important to practice forgiveness, both for yourself and others. We all make mistakes and fall short of our own ideals from time to time. When this happens, it’s important to be kind and gentle with ourselves, rather than beating ourselves up or projecting our own shame onto others. Similarly, when others make mistakes, we should strive to be forgiving and compassionate, rather than judgmental or harsh. By practicing forgiveness, we can avoid the negative and destructive patterns of hypocrisy and cultivate a more positive and healthy approach to life.

By following these practical steps, we can avoid the trap of hypocrisy and live in accordance with our own values and beliefs. While it’s not always easy to be consistent and authentic in our actions, it’s a goal worth striving for. By doing so, we can build stronger and healthier relationships with those around us and contribute to a more positive and compassionate world.

What is Hypocrisy?

In simple terms, hypocrisy is the act of saying or promoting something but failing to live by it in private. The term hypocrisy finds its roots in the Greek term ‘hypokrisis’ meaning acting out a part on stage. The Bible also teaches against hypocrisy in several passages, labeling it as a serious sin.

Hypocrisy can manifest itself in various forms, such as moral, religious, social, etc. Christians are taught to examine themselves and ensure they don’t fall into the trap of hypocrisy.

Biblical Definition of Hypocrisy

Throughout the Bible, the term hypocrisy is used to describe individuals or groups that claim to follow God’s commands but do not actually obey them themselves. Jesus, in the Bible, frequently spoke out against hypocrisy as it was a common problem among the religious leaders during his time.

The hypocrisy of the religious leaders comes to light in the book of Matthew 23:1-36, where Jesus calls out the Pharisees and scribes in their hypocritical ways. Here are a few examples of the verses in the passage, “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces… Woe to you, blind guides… You blind Pharisees! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.” Jesus’ teachings on hypocrisy emphasize that true faith is not about external practices but an inward change of the heart.

Another example of hypocrisy in the Bible is the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11, where they claimed to donate the full proceeds from the sale of their property to the church, but they kept some for themselves. Peter called them out on their deceitful greed and rebuked them, and they both died on the spot.

7 Types of Hypocrisy

The Bible provides a list of seven types of hypocrisy, also known as the seven woes, which are detailed in Matthew 23:13-33. Understanding each of these types of hypocrisy can help Christians avoid falling into the same patterns.

  1. Lack of Compassion: This type of hypocrisy is when one claims to be a follower of Christ but lacks compassion towards their fellow human beings.
  2. Excessive Attention to Detail: This type of hypocrisy involves an excessive focus on minor details like the type of clothing one wears or the way they pray instead of reflecting Christ-like character.
  3. Outward Appearance: This hypocrisy type emphasizes the need to improve one’s external appearance to the rejection of the heart.
  4. False Piety: This type of hypocrisy is prevalent among those who display a religious spirit but are missing a true relationship with God.
  5. Judgmental Attitude: Christians are warned to guard themselves against judging others to the point of hypocrisy, as seen in Matthew 7:1-5.
  6. Hypocrisy in Oaths: Honesty is a core principle of Christianity, and breaking an oath made to God ends in hypocrisy.
  7. Ignoring the Weightier Matters: This sin involves neglecting the essential things of faith, such as love, mercy, and faithfulness while following the non-essential elements to confirm their worth in faith.

Final Thoughts

It is essential to recognize the warning signs of hypocrisy to avoid falling into its trap. Christians should make a significant effort to cultivate their inner selves and focus on the meaning of faith rather than outward appearances and materialistic things. As Christians, we are called to love and serve humankind, focus on justice, and exhibit godly attributes, showing kindness, humility, and sincerity to all.

It is not too late to turn back, and with the help of God’s grace, Christians can admit and repent of their hypocrisy. Through honest examination of oneself and confession of sins, Christians can achieve a sincere faith that reflects the love of Christ to the world.

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