Hypocrisy, Pretense, Disguise…

This is a subsidiary post of Against Truth

Related posts:

Contrasting post: Sincere, Honest, Earnest…

Hypocrisy is the chief occupational hazard of a Christian.  Google defines “hypocrisy” as “the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense.”  It defines “pretense” as “an attempt to make something that is not the case appear true” and “a claim, especially a false or ambitious one.”

We can see from its definition that hypocrisy is a form of lying.  It is a particularly egregious lie because it is a lie about God and about what’s important to Him:  morality.  Some forms of hypocrisy are more severe than others.  For example, it’s hypocritical to profess knowledge of God while behaving unrighteously (e.g. Luke 6:46; 1 Corinthians 5:8-13; Titus 1:7; all of which can also be found in the list below), but it’s even more hypocritical to teach others the ways of God when you don’t practice them – as the Pharisees did.  All forms of hypocrisy are condemned, but those who teach hypocritically receive greater condemnation (James 3:1).

A concordance search of “hypocrisy” and its cognates will reveal verses dealing explicitly with this subject.  I may include some of these below, but I am mainly concerned with collecting verses here that speak to the subject but would not show up in such a search.

An asterisk indicates a synonym or antonym is used in place of hypocrisy, pretense, or disguise (e.g. “deceit” in John 1:47, “pretext” in 1 Thessalonians 2:5-6, or “imposter” in 2 Timothy 3:13).  It also might indicate the implication of hypocrisy in the verse without explicit referencing it with words.

Matthew 23:1-39  –  This chapter is an extended indictment of the Pharisees and their signature sin, which was hypocrisy.  In this chapter, the word “hypocrites” appears 7 times (Matthew 23:13, 14, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29), the word “hypocrisy” 1 time (Matthew 23:28), and the word “pretense” 1 time (Matthew 23:14).  The definition of hypocrisy is given in the beginning of the chapter when Jesus says their problem is that “they say things but do not do them” (Matthew 23:3) and that “they do all their deeds to be noticed by men” (Matthew 23:5) rather than doing them to be noticed by God – a warning He had previously given in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:1).

*Matthew 23:28  –  “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men…”  –  Correlate with 2 Corinthians 5:12; 13:7 and 1 Samuel 16:7 below.  “The scribes and the Pharisees” appeared to be righteous in the sight of the people because “the scribes and Pharisees” sought to appear righteous in the sight of the people (Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47).  They “practiced their deeds before men to be noticed by them” rather than in the sight of the One who “sees them in secret”  (Matthew 6:1-18).

*Mark 12:40  –  “…for appearance’s sake offer long prayers…”

*Luke 6:46-49  –  When we are hypocritical, we divest ourselves of the protection we need from life’s storms.  That said, this verse does not indicate whether the failure to act on Christ’s words was or was not accompanied by hypocrisy about it.

Luke 20:20  –  The essence of hypocrisy is pretense.

*Luke 20:47  –  “…for appearance’s sake offer long prayers…”

*John 1:47  –  Where this translation says “no deceit,” John 1:47 KJV (and the NASB 1973) says “no guile,” and John 1:47 NLT says “complete integrity.”

*Romans 2:23, 24  –  Hypocrisy in believers invites blasphemy from unbelievers.

Romans 12:9

*1 Corinthians 5:8-13  –  Paul’s focus here is on any “so-called brother” who is acting immorally.  Christian immorality tarnishes the name of Christ (Hebrews 12:16).

*2 Corinthians 5:12  –  “…those who take pride in appearance and not in heart.”  –  Correlate with Matthew 23:28 above.

2 Corinthians 11:15  –  Religious hypocritesdisguise themselves as servants of righteousness.”

*2 Corinthians 13:7  –  “Now we pray to God that you do no wrong; not that we ourselves may appear approved, but that you may do what is right, even though we may appear unapproved.”  –  Correlate with Matthew 23:28 above and  Samuel 16:7 below.

Galatians 2:11-14  –  Even Peter was capable of hypocrisy.

Philippians 1:18  –  “…whether in pretense or in truth…”  –  Paul has explained this distinction in the preceding verses (Philippians 1:15, 16, 17).

*1 Thessalonians 2:5-6  –  “For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed–God is witness–nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others…”

*1 Timothy 1:5  –  The word “sincere” is translated as “unfeigned” in 1 Timothy 1:5 KJV and “genuine” in 1 Timothy 1:5 NLT.  Of course, all three of these words are antonyms of “hypocritical.”

1 Timothy 4:1-2  –  “…paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars…”

*2 Timothy 1:5  –  What I wrote for 1 Timothy 1:5 above applies to this verse as well.

*2 Timothy 3:5  –  Hypocrites “hold to a form of godliness, but deny its power” over their hearts and lives.

*2 Timothy 3:13  –  “But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”

Titus 1:16  –  This verse speaks of the misalignment of words and deeds (compare with 1 John 2:6 below, and see Our Words and Our Deeds Should Align).

1 Peter 2:1-3  –  “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander…”

*1 John 2:6  –  Our behavior ought to match our confession (compare with Titus 1:16 above).

*Revelation 3:1  –  These folks had an undeserved reputation for life.


1 Samuel 16:7  –  “…man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”  –  Correlate with Matthew 23:28 above.

*Ezra 7:10  –  Note that Ezra’s intention involved three steps: 1) study, 2) practice, and 3) teaching.  The sin of hypocrisy is achieved by skipping the second step.  This was the sin of the Pharisees.

*Ezekiel 33:30-33