When most people think of hypocrisy, they tend to thing of duplicity -- someone who says one thing and does another. In Matthew 6:1-18, Jesus takes our understanding of hypocrisy a little deeper. The word "hypocrite" is a Greek word meaning "stage actor", in other words, someone who performs under a mask. When the audience is gone, the actor reverts to his true self.
When I read Jesus' words in Matthew 6, these thoughts came to mind:
1] The applause of people will never be enough. Jesus is confronting our need for applause. Apparently, there were people helping the poor and praying and fasting in order to make themselves look good, to "be seen by men". When we do this, Jesus exposes us as lonely actors on a stage performing.
There are people who live in a desperate search for approval and applause, but this only leads them to heart-break and tragedy. Do we get our worth from the approval of people or do we get it from God? No matter how many people applaud, it can never be enough.
2] The love of God is enough. In these 18 verses, Jesus repeats the word "Father" 10 times, hinting at the relationship God's people enjoy with the Father. He is not a distant god or deity for which we perform, but a Father whom we love and who loves us deeply. The love of the Father sees past our smokescreens and sound effects to encounter our authentic self. When we meet the love of the Father, our masks fall off.
3] Trying to impress others destroys lives and hinders our faith. Giving to impress others does no good (it leaves people feeling marginalized, belittled, humiliated, and used). Praying to impress others does no good (the more impressive your prayer, the harder it is to get other people to pray). Fasting & studying the scriptures to impress others does no good (pretending to be a super-Christian only hinders the rest of us who know we can't measure up to you).
I don't want a church that tries to be something it is not or expects others to wear masks to be accepted or performs its ministry to be seen in our community. I want us to love our Father deeply. It is enough that God sees our giving and hears our prayers.