By Steven J. Wallace
The lessons are obvious to the Christian, for we can immediately see that we cannot act like we are a Christian and not really live as one and be pleasing to God.
Hypocrisy is certainly a sin which the Lord condemns without hesitation. Jesus accused the scribes and Pharisees this way, “Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matt. 23:28). These people who Jesus addressed were acting righteous to men, but their hearts were far from God even as our Lord quoted from Isaiah saying, “. . . Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me’” (Mark 7:6; cf. Isa. 29:13). Jesus also warned his disciples about walking in this same hypocritical path in Luke 12:1, “in the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, ‘Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.’”
The lessons are obvious to the Christian, for we can immediately see that we cannot act like we are a Christian and not really live as one and be pleasing to God. If we make a commitment to God by dying to sin in baptism and rising to live for Christ, yet willingly forsake the assembling of the saints, we are committing hypocrisy. If we say that we love God and do not the things which he has commanded, then we are walking in a hypocritical path. A verbal love or faith that does not work is simply a hypocritical love or faith. John, the apostle encouraged, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but indeed and in truth” (I John 3:18). If we have become Christians and refuse to bear the cross, then we are com- mitting hypocrisy. Living as a Christian demands some “cross-bearing.” There are some things that we must crucify (i.e., selfishness, lusts, insubordination, pride, etc.) if we are going to consider ourselves Christians. If one is not willing to “bear his cross” (Luke 14:27), then he should not deceive himself or others by thinking that he is a Christian, a disciple of Christ, because he is not; he is a disciple of the devil. We cannot pretend to be someone that we are not, for God knows the hearts of men.
Some, however, use hypocrisy as an excuse to relieve themselves of their personal responsibility to God. You may have heard someone speak something like this, “I don’t need a church to go to. There are too many hypocrites there anyway. In fact, all hypocrites are found in church buildings on Sunday mornings. My spirituality rests on a personal relationship with God.” To one who is ignorant of God’s word, this may seem wise, enticing, and even excusing, but it is simply playing the hypocrite (as we will show) and is dangerously playing with eternal fire! Christians are to have a personal relationship with God; however, much of our “personal relationship” with God rests on our personal responsibilities toward others! Refer to Matthew 25:31-46 for a case in point. Too, Paul penned, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). And again one said, “For God is not un- just to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Heb. 6:10; emp. mine). We cannot hide our faith in some closet and be apathetic towards our fellowman’s soul justifying it all by some erroneous idea of a “personal (private) relationship.”
When these people say “personal” relationship, they mean an “inconspicuous” relationship. Most who justify their complacency by condemning other persons’ hypocrisy are acting hypocritically themselves. For example, they go to work to earn their buck even though they work with hypocrites, hypocrites who only work when the boss is around.
Nearly everyone has worked with someone who in- stead of working hard, works hard to hardly work! Again, many of these same people who sneer and deride the “church’s” hypocrisy will gladly entertain themselves listening to musicians who sing about adultery, premarital sex, drinking parties, and things of the like, who then praise and thank God for their Grammy. Why will some work with hypocrites, but not worship with them. Why will some listen to hypocrites entertain, but not study God’s word with them?
Is this not hypocrisy? Would one be so foolish to refuse blood for an immediate surgery for fear of a hypocrite who may have worked in the blood drive? Would one resist a lifeline and perish in a raging sea because there may be a hypocrite on board the ship? How absurd! I am not excusing hypocrisy, I am simply questioning some people’s inconsistency. How Jesus’ words ring true, “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye?” (Luke 6:41).
People who excuse themselves from any responsibility to the Lord’s church because of some person’s sin of hypocrisy will never be saved unless they examine their own hypocrisy of self-righteousness, repent and obey the gospel of Jesus Christ. With such an evasive attitude, these people would have even refused to enter into the first-century church, for there was this ugly problem even then (see Acts 5:1-10). In fact some of the prominent lead- ers in the first century fell subject to this very problem (see Gal. 2:11-14)!
Though we detest hypocrisy, it is a sin that can be cleansed by the blood of Jesus if we are willing to self-examine and judge ourselves before we judge others. Hypocrisy is a sin that must be repented from in order to be forgiven. Christians are not perfect, just forgiven. As for all sins, let us take up the words of the apostle Peter, “Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you” (Acts 8:22). Don’t stand in the gate of hypocrisy and neither hide behind it. No flesh shall be justified before God by committing it or prejudicially pointing it out in others. Hypocrisy is a poor flimsy excuse that some give to justify their ungodliness.
Let us never be sucked into this deceit. Have you yet?