If you have ever baked your own bread you know that after it rises the first time it has to be punched down. It is the leavening, usually yeast, which causes the dough to expand. Jesus told his followers; "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy." (Luke 12:1) The Pharisees were the religious leaders of their day. It is interesting that the word "pharisee" is actually now a common noun in the dictionary which means hypocritical and self-righteous. They thought they had an inside track to God and that they had all the answers on how to interpret God's laws and live right. They sure got punched down didn't they?
But before we get all "self righteous" about how much better and smarter we are than them, let's take a deeper look at the Lord's warning. First of all, what is hypocrisy really? It is from a Greek word that is talking about playing a part on stage; in other words, pretending to be something you are not like an actor cast in a play. A hypocrite is one who affects virtues or qualities he does not have.
Therefore, if hypocrisy is leaven, what does that mean? When leaven gets into the dough it affects the whole thing-it permeates the dough. Hypocrisy does that in our life. It seeps into every crevice of our personality. Then we get "puffed up" like the dough rising and we need to be punched down. Like the Bible says; "Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall." (Proverbs 16:18)
Most of us have some hypocrisy in our lives. We pretend many virtues in ourselves that we really don't possess. We mentally separate ourselves off from the rest of those other slimy human beings and smugly feel we are better - above - the rest. "They" are dirty; we are clean; "they" are judgmental; we are open-minded; "they" are degenerate, we are moral and upright. And the dough keeps rising….
Jesus said to watch out for that because in the end, everything will be open. "For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known." (Luke 12:2) Those hidden, secret attitudes we have, the pretenses we make, the play acting we do is all going to be exposed someday. Why don't we just expose it now directly to the Lord and avoid the embarrassment of "someday"?
Here's a little prayer you might want to join me in. "Lord, I don't like to say it to you but please reveal my hypocrisy to me. I don't want to pretend to be something I am not. I want to be the real thing before you and all men. According to your Word, you can't really hide anything anyway - it's all going to come out. So I want it to come out now just between you and me. Please go ahead and punch me down, Lord. Amen." As the Holy Spirit reveals areas of hypocrisy in your life, admit them and tell God you are sorry. Keep that dough flat. If you do that now you can expect a much nicer outcome; "And before honor comes humility."(Proverbs 15:33)