Pharisee means “separate ones” in Hebrew. They were proud, arrogant, and overly formal, but, to their credit, they were orthodox in their belief, such as in heaven and hell, the Last Judgment, angels and devils, the resurrection of the body; even though they ignored the more important precepts of the Law such as healing and forgiving. They criticized Jesus and his disciples for plucking grain on the Sabbath, eating with tax collectors and sinners, eating with hands not washed, not fasting, divorce and remarriage, and paying taxes to Caesar.1
Notice that because of their close proximity of belief, Jesus says: “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example” (Matt 23:1-4). In contrast, Jesus says in John 13:15, “I have given you an example that you should follow.”
If you think that Jesus is too harsh on calling them hypocrites consider that the Pharisees themselves engaged in self-criticism. E.g. Deceivers among their own as illustrated by the case of a man who had money which he wished to entrust for safekeeping. He spotted a man wearing a phylactery, which has Scripture verses on the inside, and concluding that the latter was trustworthy, left the money with him. When he later came to collect his money, the trustee denied that the transaction had ever taken place, to which the first rejoined: “It wasn’t you that I trusted, but the holy name of the phylactery that was upon your head.”2
Imperfection is not hypocrisy. Proverbs 24:16 says the righteous person falls seven times and rises again…” The Catechism says the remedy is to tell the truth; to call upon the Lord, who can lead us into righteousness, faith love and peace.
To be authentic means that we are not false but real, genuine, and true to one’s beliefs.
“Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.” Jesus is referring to the ancient saying, “nemo tan patris”- no one is father as God is Father. Usurping God’s fatherhood is to be a rageaholic when you’re unable to control your anger or seem to have unprovoked outbursts of rage
Do not be called ‘Master’—if you refer to yourself or others as Mr. and Mrs. Those are forms of the word master. You have but one master and teacher. Jesus himself commissions us to be teachers in Matthew 28, and St. Paul calls himself a teacher to the Gentiles many times.
Having one teacher is to be Christocentric—not teaching your opinions but the truth, especially in terms of teaching the Catholic faith. The words of Jesus: “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. Moses’ chair has been replaced by Peter’s Chair upon which sit the Bishops of Rome. What assiduous study of the word of God transmitted by the Church’s magisterium, what profound familiarity with Christ and with the Father, what a spirit of prayer, what detachment from self must a catechist have in order that he can say: “My teaching is not mine!”
If someone’s actions are unacceptable to us, we consider in what instances we may have acted similarly within our lives. To avoid hypocrisy, turn your focus to believing the faith and morals of the Christian faith as taught by the teaching Church and applying it to our own hearts. When we focus on Jesus, He’ll teach us, guide us and extend His to others when we ask for the daily grace to walk the talk.
1. Saldarmi, “The Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees in Mark,” 10
2. Jeffrey H. Tigay, On the term phylacteries, Harvard Theological Review, 72 no 1 – 2 Jan – Apr 1979, p 45-53