38 And he said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces,
39 And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts:
40 Which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.
I have been doing some reading in the book of Mark. This morning I once again came across this familiar condemnation of the Scribes by Jesus.
Jesus had little toleration for the religious hypocrite.
The phrase "and for a pretence make long prayers" really grabbed my attention this morning.
Pretence - 1. The act of holding out or offering to others something false or feigned; presentation of what is deceptive or hypocritical; false show; simulation; 2. That which is pretended; false, deceptive, or hypocritical show; pretext. 3. The act of pretending or laying claim; claim laid; assumption. (Webster's Unabridged, 1892)
Synonyms - charade, disguise, make believe, pageant
Related words - deceit, deception, fake, fraud, humbug, imposture, sham, affectation, air, pose
Contrasted words - sincereness; reality, soundness, substantiatlity, validity, fairness, honesty
Antonym - Sincerity (Webster's Collegiate Thesaurus)
The Lord was accusing the Scribes of using long prayers to pretend they were something they were not. Their long prayers were a false show, a charade. It was for the purpose of disguising the truth about themselves. He is accusing them of being a fraud, an imposture.
We must be careful that our spiritual exercises are not simply pageantry to disguise our carnality. Maybe this is why the Lord extols the virtue of private prayer and discreet giving. Pretence is only possible in the context of public consumption.
It is not what we let people see that determines our sincerity but what people don't see.
2 Corinthians 1:12 - For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.
May God help me to live a life that reflects a godly sincerity and deliver me from living a life of pretence. May we all be cautious about hiding behind long prayers, or any other spiritual activity for that matter.