What is a hypocrite? The dictionary defines a hypocrite as “a person who pretends to have desirable qualities or publicly approved attitudes, beliefs and practices but actually does not possess them.” If there is anything that Jesus hates, it is hypocrisy. As Jesus pointed out in his condemnation of the Scribes and Pharisees, their problem is they emphasise the “outside” rather than the "inside" - the inmost concerns of the heart. This being so, there is need to look into our “inside” and discover its priorities. Is it to impress others? If so, then our concern becomes how we appear externally before others, for example, through the way we talk, the clothes we wear, the jewellery and other bodily accessories we display, the house we live in, etc. For some of us, this may even include the way we practice our faith as the Scribes and the Pharisees did in Jesus' time. All these in order to project our self-importance.
Sincerity and truthfulness are the opposite of hypocrisy. In these virtues, the emphasis is on what lies “inside” of us. When we are sincere and truthful, we cease to be overly concerned with the “outside” since we believe that what matters in God's eyes is our “inside.” Among others it tells us that we would be no different from others if it were not for the grace of God. Jesus knows the kind of people we all are, how prone we are to sin. Yet He says to all of us, “Be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect.” We certainly cannot be as perfect as the heavenly Father is. But with God's grace, we can aim to be less and less imperfect - every moment, every day, over a long period of time, a lifetime.
Is it difficult? Of course. Is it impossible? No! Why not? Because Jesus has shown us how, as seen in today's Gospel. For example, Jesus, while talking about the parable of the blind leading the blind, asked, “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?... You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother's eye.” Here Jesus is teaching us that we can lead others only after we have accepted Him in faith. Thus the need for us to discover and acknowledge our sinfulness, and strive to make changes in our lives. Then only do we acquire, the so-called “right” to correct and even lead others without both of us falling into the pit.
Thus, when we speak out on people and issues, we do so not out of self–righteousness as this only puts them off. Rather, we do so conscious of our own shortcomings, a trait we all share with others but with a difference, we constantly try to overcome them . May we strive to follow Jesus' ways, and give glory to God in all we say and do.