The Modern Pilgrim's Journey

The Dangers of Hypocrisy

The Modern Pilgrim #27 Pilgrim is embarrassed when the Good Shepherd corrects her for speaking sweetly to the faces of new pilgrims and then criticizing them behind their backs, with her friends.

Ever hear something like this from an unsaved friend or family member? “I don’t go to church because churches are filled with hypocrites.” I used to brush those criticisms off and argue the opposite. I never changed anyone’s mind who shared that sentiment with me.  I probably made things worse by getting into a foolish argument.

I think there is some hypocrisy inside the church walls. Although I think Satan overblows the amount in the minds of lost people, we believers do give him material to work with. I’m thinking of several funny/sad experiences from my life.

The lady from my church who tried to hide her liquor under produce in her grocery cart and became beet-red and tongue tied when she wound up ahead of me, her pastor’s wife, in the checkout line.  (I believe the decision about alcohol in your life is between you and God, but if you’re that embarrassed to be seen purchasing it, one wonders.)

The couple engaged in a screaming fight in the church parking lot, not realizing I heard them from the parsonage yard on my way to church, who then heard the church bell chime for service, slammed out of their car with their children and then on happy faces to enter into the worship service. (Not so great for kiddos.)

The college friends who named themselves as Christian, attended dorm Bible study and worship groups during the week then missed Sunday church recovering from hangovers.

The elder who led marriage retreats with his wife while simultaneously engaging in a ten-year affair with another woman.

All the times I acted kind to the faces of my worst critics in ministry and teaching and then verbally trashed them to other people. (Hypocrisy at its best)

I could list a dozen other stories. My point is, I’ve seen this stuff. I’ve done this stuff. We are fools if we think lost people aren’t watching and listening.  We name Jesus Christ over our lives, then embarrass the kingdom of God by sliding in and out of various personas based on who we’re with and where we are. So, let’s ask ourselves some revealing questions.

Do I look and talk the same in my neighborhood as I do in my church?

Do I treat my family with the same kindness and respect in private as I do in public?

Is my marriage authentically healthy or do I pretend that it is?

If people from work saw me entering a church would they be surprised?

Are my movie and TV choices something I’d be fine with my church friends knowing about?

Would I be ashamed if my internet search history became known to my Christian friends?

Am I hiding stuff under my produce?

Hypocritical behavior is dangerous to the gospel and fuel for the kingdom of darkness. Jesus regularly railed on the Pharisees and Sadducees due to their “do as I say and not as I do” lifestyle.

“Then Jesus addressed both the crowds and his disciples and said, “The religious scholars and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ throne as the authorized interpreters of the Law. So, listen and follow what they teach, but don’t do what they do, for they tell you one thing and do another. They tie on your backs an oppressive burden of religious obligations and insist that you carry it but will never lift a finger to help ease your load. Everything they do is done for show and to be noticed by others. They want to be seen as holy, so they wear oversized prayer boxes on their arms and foreheads with Scriptures inside and wear extra-long tassels on their outer garments. They crave the seats of highest honor at banquets and in their meeting places. And how they love to be admired by men with their titles of respect, aspiring to be recognized in public and have others call them ‘Reverend.’ Matthew 23:1-7 The Passion Translation

How awful. These were the Jewish religious leaders that people should have looked up to as examples. Instead Jesus told his followers not to copy them.

As a Baby Boomer myself, I’m aware of the priorities of much of my generation: success, meaningful contribution to society and then meaningful relationships after that. These are not the way younger generations order their priorities. In fact, relationships are number one with a majority of Millennial’s and Generation X’ers. What kind of damage do you think is done to the cause of Christ for the 50 and under when hypocrisy is displayed in the body of Christ?

The sense of loss and pain that those two generations feel when they discover someone is not being authentic with them is more profound than previous generations. Pharisees are still grieving God’s heart and provoking his anger. Think carefully about who Jesus treated most harshly during his earthly ministry. Not sinners, but religious people who should have welcomed him and behaved more like him.

God’s opinion of hypocrites, as expressed by Jesus, is unchanged because he does not change.  Lack of authenticity of some believers, damages the credibility of every believer. It hinders the gospel seed from taking root in the ground of a lost heart because it hardens the soil. Hypocrisy is dangerous to the gospel. Authenticity opens people’s hearts to our message. Can you take off your masks in your neighborhood, workplace, friendship circle or anywhere else you’re wearing them? Can you let people see the real, flawed, struggling you? For lost people, that can be their first lesson about grace; God-followers are far from perfect, but we are perfectly loved.  

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