Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dealing with the Ugly H word: Hypocrite

You've heard it. I've heard it. We call other people it. God forbid if anyone calls us one. And it's an ugly word, isn't it?


Hypocrisy: Saying an act is morally wrong, yet doing that very act or something much worse, all the while failing to acknowledge this as an inconsistency.

85% of young Americans outside of the church would define the American Church as hypocritical.

My question? What are we going to do about it?

We could start by pointing the finger at Christians we would consider hypocritical. You know the ones I'm talking about. The ones on the news. The ones with signs. The ones sitting in pews. We could to turn to Matthew 23, the rebuke of the Pharisees, to strongly make our point.

"For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. They love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues. But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law; justice and mercy and faithfulness. You clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisees! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean." (Matthew 23)

It would make us feel justified to stand behind Jesus and point the finger at all of the people we think are hypocrites.

But this would be wrong.

I believe that the first temptation after reading Scripture is to think who needs to hear this passage. Using Scripture as our argument, to be our justification. All the while forgetting that we read Scripture first to change our own hearts.

That being said, as we read Matthew 23, we first ask ourselves, "How am I inconsistent in what I say, do, and believe?"

Do I practice what I preach?

Am I willing to lift a finger to help the burden of others, or do I make them feel worse about themselves?

Do I do what I do just to be seen?

Has my life ever shut the kingdom of heaven in someone's face?

Have I neglected justice, mercy and faithfulness for my own personal interests?

Do I clean my appearance only to hide my greed and self-indulgence?

When Jesus examines my heart, does he call me a hypocrite?

And then our inconsistencies begin to become evident.

But let me share something with you that will free you:

The opposite of hypocrisy is NOT perfection, it's transparency.

First, transparency with God. We approach God not as perfect creatures, but creations in progress. Our transparency and honesty with him spurs healing.

Then transparency with others.

No one is expecting you to be perfect. No one is expecting you to follow every Biblical passage flawlessly. What they are starving for is people admitting their mistakes. To show that they are not perfect like Jesus, but strive to be.

If 85% of young Americans outside of the church would define the American Church as hypocritical, then real change starts, not with pointing our fingers at others, but with YOU being transparent. With ME being transparent.

So for starters, to everyone who is reading, I know that I put up a front like I have it all together. But I don't. I struggle with this very idea of pointing my finger at people of my faith who are messing up. I read Scripture so I can have good arguments, not a good relationship with God. And sometimes I write a little blog to show people that I have better ideas that others, as if I knew how to fix the big problems in America and the world. I tend to be hypocritical, not transparent. But God is still working in me. And he is making progress.

There. I feel better with you knowing that.

And again, with most issues I bring up, I believe we need to be intentional about this. We need to initiate these conversations with people who have hypocrisy as a barrier between them and Christ. We need to confess our sins. And we need for God to bring us to transparency.

Be the exception to the rule. Be transparent, rather than hypocritical.

Gandhi said to us,
"Be the change you want to see in the world."

So I say to you,
"Be the change you want to see in Christianity."

(for the record, I have nothing against pews)

Who do you need to confess to?
What are other ways that we can influence those who have hypocrisy as a barrier between them and Christ?


  1. You have a lot of good points here. I know from experience that the quickest way to reach someone isn't to tell them what they are doing wrong -- honestly, most people know they are wrong and feel bad before we ever talk to them. The fact is that people don't need to know where they are, but need to know the way out; if I were trapped in a building, then telling me that I'm trapped in a building or even why I am trapped there is going to illicit irritation -- me being desperate or needy doesn't make me an idiot...

    So much to say here, but I don't need to make a soapbox out of it. Just know that I hear you. We all do.

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  3. Omochan makes an excellent point-- reaching people should not, and must never, start with pointing out the wrongs they've committed. It makes people very defensive. One of my biggest annoyances is open air preachers who think they reach students by shouting at them. There was one a couple months ago who had signs saying football was a sin and we're all going to hell (and to say that at UGA... that guy had guts). The crowd was made up of mostly non-Christians, and they didn't understand what he meant by how football might be a pet sin for SOME people, not an entire college campus. He tried explaining it, but no one wanted to listen to his explanation because of his initial statement. If all he wanted to do was draw a crowd, he succeeded, but I don't think he converted anyone that day...
    ANYWAY, to the questions.
    I confess that I am a very impatient person, and I get frustrated easily-- I think short tempers run in my family. I also have a hard time with showing my love for other people. My friends tell me it's hard to talk to me about mistakes they've made because they're afraid of disappointing me, and I know it's my fault. In my heart, I accept them no matter what, but I somehow can't show it... I don't know if this makes much sense.
    I think the way to influence those who are lost is to be patient (which is exactly why I need to work on mine). When I was lost, I didn't want to listen to people who were constantly badgering me about Christianity. I wanted someone who could patiently discuss my beliefs with me and accept them. That's exactly how Jesse Strauss reached out to me and led me back to God.

  4. @Cait

    of all of the 'sins' to preach against in athens, he picks football? weird. if we keep quiet, then anti-football guy will be the only christian voice that uga students hear. if we keep quiet, then we allow anti-football preachers to be our voice.

    thanks for being honest and transparent. i've noticed that the older i get, the shorter my temper is. i thought the older i got the more mature i'd be. but truth is, the older i get, the more i feel like the world owes me. and when i dont get what i'm owed, i get mad. work in progress tho.

    thanks for the feedback, cait.

  5. nice blog! keep going at it!

  6. @Sa

    thanks! i'll write as long as it's still helping people and helping myself grow.

  7. Two words: ROAD RAGE.
    I don't really struggle with it. I just give in. I show my temper with everyone who annoys me on the road. I've let it go unchecked for years now.
    I also tend to have a superiority complex, even though I try to mask it with humility. I present myself as having it all together and hide behind my Bible knowledge, often hiding my own pain, confusion and struggles. God help me to be real!
    Enjoyed this post, man. Keep up the good work!

  8. I was a theatre major (I know, I spell it pretentiously with the "re" instead of the "er") in college before transferring to Lincoln Christian College to become a minister. I love the Greek word for hypocrite because it is a word that means a "play actor". Someone deliberately pretending to be someone or something that they are not. I think that the word hypocrite has taken on a meaning that it did not originally mean (Princess Bride reference -- sorta). We all preach what we do not practice. We all say one thing and do another. I think we are all idealists, not hypocrites. We are humans, not play actors. Hypocrisy is exactly what Jesus said it was -- a cup with a pristine exterior and a filthy interior. The Pharisees pretended to be "holy Joes". All the while, they were even more messed up on the inside than those they looked down upon. It was a deliberate act they put on to make themselves look good. I totally agree with the cure for hypocrisy being transparency. If I am purposefully transparent, then I will be less apt to be a hypocrite. I will always be an idealist. I will always preach the Truth. I will always be human, too. I will always sin and I will not always practice what I preach. When I purposefully and deliberately make myself look better than I am for the applause and admiration of human beings, then I am in danger of being labeled a hypocrite. Not by other humans, but by God. Perish the thought!