One of the reasons people often give for not going to church is, “The church is full of hypocrites!” Unfortunately, many Christians respond by saying this is true. They are happy to admit their hypocrisy and claim that all churchgoers are hypocrites.
A Flawed Trend
These Christians think being imperfect qualifies someone as being a hypocrite. Since we are works in progress and still sin sometimes, we all struggle with hypocrisy, right? But this is not how the Bible defines hypocrisy. In the Bible, a hypocrite is someone whose behavior contradicts what they claim to believe. It is someone who pretends to be religious and to care about God, but in reality only cares about themselves. It is a worldly person who pretends to be a godly person. It is someone whose entire lifestyle is inconsistent with their claim to be a Christian.
What the Bible Says
The Old Testament makes it clear that God can sense hypocrisy, and He hates it. He constantly measures what we say and do on the outside against who we are on the inside. Samuel asks Saul, “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD?” (1 Samuel 15:22). God says, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Isaiah 29:13). And He says, “Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them” (Amos 5:22).
Now before we start gladly calling ourselves hypocrites, let’s consider what the New Testament says. It makes a few points that will sharpen and clarify our concept of hypocrisy:
- Hypocrisy is specific. 1 Peter 2:1 says, “Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.” Rather than being a general sin that all commit, Peter lists hypocrisy as a specific sin we can rid ourselves of.
- Hypocrisy is deliberate. In Matthew 23, Jesus pronounces woe upon the Jewish leaders seven times and calls them “hypocrites” six times. He condemns them for deliberately and intentionally overlooking the internal requirements of the law.
- Hypocrisy concerns leadership. The Bible is usually talking about leaders when it mentions hypocrisy. Jesus condemns the Jewish leaders, and Paul even opposes Peter (Galatians 2:11-14)! Leaders are especially susceptible to becoming hypocrites.
What It Means For Us
It is fair to say there are inconsistencies in all of our lives. None of us perfectly obeys Jesus all of the time. But that doesn’t mean all Christians are hypocrites; it simply means we are unfinished products. We must put these inconsistencies to death by the power of the Holy Spirit before they progress into hypocrisy.
Do you belong to Jesus and have a genuine desire to follow Him? Do you worship Him sincerely from your heart and strive to honor Him in your daily life? If so, your ongoing struggle with sin and temptation does not make you a hypocrite. So stop calling yourself one.
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