Friday, January 12, 2007

It's Dumb to be a Hypocrite

I know it's true, because Jesus said so.

And yet, the sad reality is that this truth is one I need to continually be preaching to myself and my foolish heart.

This morning as I was reading through a portion of Luke's gospel I came across these verses:

In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.
I take this to be showing me that hypocrisy is dumb. Here's why:
  1. It's dumb to try to keep your sin secret when nothing's going to stay secret forever. When we hide things we're hiding them from men because we want to impress (we're afraid of) men. But what we try to hide won't remain hidden forever anyway. So even the things we can keep hidden for now won't remain 'our little secret' for good. If you're a Christian who's tried to live in sin you know this to be true. Your sins will always find you out.
  2. It's dumb to fear people when all they can do is kill you. That may seem like a big deal, but think about it. For those of us who have access to computers and the internet, the chances of actually being martyred for our faith are pretty ridiculously small. But even if it were a real and pressing danger (as it was for the man speaking these words), so what? It's not like you weren't going to die anyway. If you fear men, you'll die one way or another and then you'll be out of their reach. But there's something way worse than death, and that's hell. Jesus won't settle with people being wishy-washy with him. You either fear men or else you fear God. There's no middle ground.
So which would you rather have? A little bit of comfort here and now in the presence of men--until they figure out who you really are and realize you're a hypocrite--and then an eternity of torment in hell, or some persecution and hardship now, with a clean conscience and full assurance of an eternity of unimaginable joy to come?

You're telling me it's not dumb to be a hypocrite?

5 comments:

jshelley78 said...

So which would you rather have? A little bit of comfort here and now in the presence of men--until they figure out who you really are and realize you're a hypocrite--and then an eternity of torment in hell, or some persecution and hardship now, with a clean conscience and full assurance of an eternity of unimaginable joy to come?

Um...I'm pretty sure that if Jesus is going to accept me, he's going to have to accept me as the hypocrite I am.

Julian Freeman said...

James, thanks for the comment. Although I think I disagree a little with the tone...

We come to Christ from lives of sin and shame and all the hypocrisy that comes with that. But on this side of the cross there's no room for it.

I don't hide that I'm a sinner and I don't hide my sin. But I don't live like a hypocrite--trying to make others think more highly of me than they ought by putting on a show of spirituality (showy humility and showy religiosity are both equally condemned).

Admitting that we're hypocrites isn't an answer, and it is not Christian to be pleased with staying there. At the beginning of his ministry Jesus said 'unless the righteousness of your life is greater than that of the scribes and pharisees you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.' What's the standard he gave? 'Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.' At the end of his ministry he still insisted that every disciple be taught to 'obey my commands.'

Jesus was serious about disciples who obey his commands and live a righteous life... he wasn't interested in his Spirit-indwelt, living-temples simply throwing up their hands in the face of sin and giving in to the temptation to live a double-life as if they had no other choice.

jshelley78 said...

but if I am truely honest, I can not claim that my beliefs, speech and actions are always congruent ... which would seem to imply that I am a hypocrite ... which would suggest that the least hypocritical thing for me to do is to admit that I am a hypocrite!

Son of Man said...

I think what Jesus talking about here is, what Julian pointed out, the false religiosity that hides a heart that is far from God. Jesus didn't call anyone a hypocrite who was a sincere follower of him when they screwed up and sined. I think that we can also easily practice false humility by contsantly "admitting" that we are hypocrites.

Julian Freeman said...

Thanks for jumping in here, Josh. I think the confusion here is due to a lack of precision in defining our categories.

Too often we're quick to import modern meanings for words on to what Jesus said. Here's a perfect example. When we hear hypocrite, we think of someone who doesn't live up to all they say they believe.

But the problem is, that's not at all what Jesus had in mind.

Read through the gospels and notice the problems that Jesus has with the hypocrites and you'll see it's that they are play-actors, deceivers, intentionally trying to work religious angles for political power, pomp, and prestige--because they have a heart full of pride.

Jesus had all the mercy in the world for people wayed down by sin, and desired that his followers be humble and repentent before all else (Mt 5.3).

When Jesus talked about hypocrites he wasn't condemning people who sometimes fall into sin, even though they hate it and are striving to live for righteousness; he was talking about people who make a show of religion for their own gain. He was talking about people who live for the rewards and praise of other humans.