Hypocrisy! Not a nice word and not a very pleasant thing to be accused of by those who know us best. The definition is: “Hypocrisy is the practice of engaging in the same behaviour or activity for which one criticizes another or the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behaviour does not conform. ( Wikipedia )
We’ve all been guilty of it at times – as a young person, an adult, a parent, a leader in our community or in our employment place, and it is not just for those who claim to be people of faith (or politicians!) – and when accused, unless we really are in denial, we know that too often it is the truth, but we often wonder how we can be any different.
Psalm 26 warns us concerning associating with such people when it says:
I do not sit with the deceitful, nor do I associate with hypocrites. (Psalm 26:4)
But the place in the Bible where it appears most is found in the Gospel of Matthew and are actually the words of Jesus aimed at the most religious people of his day amongst the Jewish people. Listen to what he had to say to them.
Six times he begins his condemnation with the words,
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! (Verses 13, 15, 23, 25, 27, and 29)
Once he says,
“Woe to you, blind guides! (verse 16)
And ends with,
“You snakes! You brood of vipers! (verse 33)
Ouch! Jesus words to the crowds listening were, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So, you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. (vv 2-3)
I suggest you read Matthew 23 to see more reasons why Jesus was not happy with those who were meant to be the teachers and examples of God’s righteousness, mercy and justice in Jerusalem.
So, what is the connection to Psalm 101? Well, let’s look at it in depth.
- The title indicates that it was “Of David” and, if not concerning David himself, it seems to concern a reigning King in Israel.
- This King seems to possess far-reaching power. He says in verse 5:
Whoever slanders their neighbour in secret,
I will put to silence;
whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart,
I will not tolerate.
- He seems to have the judicial authority to expel those who do evil in the city and the land. He says in verse 8:
Every morning I will put to silence
all the wicked in the land;
I will cut off every evildoer
from the city of the Lord.
Weiser suggests that “The psalm is probably a proclamation issued by the King at his enthronement festival. He does not render an account of the actual state of affairs, but makes a declaration in which he expresses the lofty ideals whereby the conduct of a ruler shall be guided.”
The key word that comes to mind as we read this psalm is integrity, meaning that what we say we not only believe but we live by as revealed by our daily actions (i.e., the opposite to those Jesus called hypocrites).
Weiser continues: the King “shows himself [to be a man of integrity] in that he first applied to himself the demands implicit in these principles
[1 I will sing of your love and justice;
to you, Lord, I will sing praise.
2 I will be careful to lead a blameless life—
when will you come to me?
I will conduct the affairs of my house
with a blameless heart.
3 I will not look with approval
on anything that is vile. (vv. 1-3) ]
before he issues directions for the conduct of others.
[Those who are 4 The perverse of heart… 5 Whoever slanders their neighbour in secret…
whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart…
7 No one who practices deceit…
no one who speaks falsely… (vv. 4-8) ]
The bond that unites leader and [those] led consists in the fact that they are equally accountable to a higher authority. The King subjects his own person and his office to the demands which God makes upon people… The right behaviour towards God entails the right behaviour towards men… What unites him with his people is their common subjection to the will of God… a model of true leadership.”
Weiser concludes, “All in all, a devout king amidst a devout people! This is an ideal of which surely no king [or any other leader] need to be ashamed.” (# 27)
But, is it just “an ideal”? Is it really possible? Or will hypocrisy always be the norm?
We will consider this next time.