The word hypocrite comes from a Greek word that means "an actor," "one who plays a part." There are hypocrites in every walk of life, people who try to impress others in order to hide their real selves. In the Christian life, a hypocrite is somebody who tries to appear more spiritual than he or she really is. These people know that they are pretending, and they hope they will not be found out. Their Christian life is only a shallow masquerade. It is easy to see why Jesus gave this warning at this particular time. The disciples might be tempted either to gain popularity by pleasing the crowds, or avoid trouble by pleasing the scribes and Pharisees. All of us want people to like us, and it seems such an easy thing to "act the part" that others want to see.
How can we keep hypocrisy out of our lives?
We must understand what hypocrisy really is (v. 1). Jesus compared it to yeast. Like yeast, hypocrisy begins very small but grows quickly and quietly. As it grows, it infects the whole person. Soon pride takes over and the person's character deteriorates rapidly. If we want to keep hypocrisy out of our lives, we must avoid that first bit of "leaven." Once we start to pretend, the process goes on quickly; and the longer we wait, the worse it gets.
Hypocrisy is foolish and futile (vv. 2-3)
Why? Because nothing can really be hidden. Jesus referred here primarily to His own teachings, but the principle applies to other areas of life. The Twelve might be tempted to cover or compromise the truth so that neither the crowds nor the Pharisees would be offended. God's truth is like light, not leaven, and it must not be hidden. The lies of the hypocrite will one day be revealed, so why go on pretending? Let your light shine!
We must understand what causes hypocrisy (vv. 4-7).
Jesus mentioned "fear" five times in these verses, so He is teaching us that a basic cause of hypocrisy is the fear of man. When we are afraid of what others may say about us or do to us, then we try to impress them in order to gain their approval. If necessary, we will even lie to accomplish our purposes, and this is hypocrisy. Unfortunately, many of the scribes and Pharisees were more concerned about reputation than character, what people thought about them than what God knew about them. The fear of man always brings a snare (Prov. 29:25), and Jesus wanted His disciples to avoid that snare.
The remedy for hypocrisy is to forget about what people may say and do and fear God alone.
The fear of God is the fear that conquers all other fears, for the person who truly fears God need fear nothing else. All that men can do is kill the body, but God can condemn the soul! Since He is the final Judge, and He judges for eternity, it is logical that we put the fear of God ahead of everything else. Our God knows us and cares for us. He cares for the sparrows, and we are of more value than they; so what do we have to fear from men?
Bible Exposition Commentary - Bible Exposition Commentary – Be Compassionate (Luke 1-13).