The Greek word hupokrités (ὑποκριτής) means an actor, someone who is playing a role. The noun form appears 18 times in the New Testament and is consistently translated with the cognate, “hypocrite.” The verb form, hupokrinomai (ὑποκρίνομαι), only appears once, and is translated as “pretend” or “feign.” (See parallel translations of Luke 20:20 on biblehub.com.) The word is a combination of two other Greek words: hupo (ὑπό), which means “under,” and krinó (κρίνω), which means “to judge” or “to decide.” The idea is that an actor makes decisions under a false identity, instead of being above-board and sincere.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus provides four examples of hypocrites:

  1. People who “sound a trumpet” as they give alms. (See Matthew 6:2, 3 Nephi 13:2.)
  2. People who pray in public, hoping to be seen. (See Matthew 6:5, 3 Nephi 13:5.)
  3. People who “disfigure their faces” when they fast, so that others will know they are fasting. (See Matthew 6:16, 3 Nephi 13:16.)
  4. People who provide correction to others without recognizing and correcting their own failings. (See Matthew 7:5, 3 Nephi 14:5.)

God told Samuel that He sees our hearts, whereas other people see only “the outward appearance” (1 Samuel 16:7). It’s tempting to focus on the appearance, hoping that others will believe it represents reality. But the effort we make to impress other people is ultimately self-defeating if it detracts from our efforts to build something genuine. God sees through facades and knows whether we have actually accomplished what we seem to have accomplished.

Today, I will avoid hypocrisy. I will strive to please God by giving and worshipping genuinely, not out of a desire to impress other people.

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