Someone says one thing and does another. They tell you not to do something but are secretly doing it themselves. They preach love but express hate. It’s called hypocrisy, and it may turn people away from Jesus more than anything else does.

The word “hypocrite” comes from the Greek word hupokritēs, which means “actor.” In ancient drama, actors wore masks showing different emotions—happy, sad—that their character was feeling in a scene. Thus, a hypocrite is someone who wears a mask. That can describe any of us on a given day, but we’re truly hypocrites when we pretend to be someone we’re not.

In Matthew 23:1-30, Jesus describes the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of his day. They didn’t practice what they preached (v. 3). Their religion was mostly for show (vv. 5-7). They block people out of heaven (v. 13). They ruin other people’s religion (v. 15). They major in minors, while treating others poorly (vv. 23-24). They put on a good show but are rotting inside (vv. 25-28). In fact, Jesus compares hypocrites to “whitewashed tombs”—neat and tidy on the outside but dead on the inside (Matt. 23:27-28).

Without God and His Holy Spirit's power working in each of our lives every day, we’re all dead inside. But praise God that if we ask Him every day to give us the power to be more like Him, He'll do it (Phil. 2:12-16). With God working in us, we'll be a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17).