The so called hypocrite
I am going to say several things here that fly in the face of main stream Christianity’s new found tentative character. What we’ll see is that it’s been hoodwinked. Thesis statement: The predominant charge of hypocrisy against Christians is a bludgeon to silence evangelism or moral correction.
We live in a politically correct world. People are terrified of misspeaking and being called a homophobe or a racist or a misogynist. The label and culture was purposely created to silence you from speaking light into darkness. I am going to make a strong corollary from the political world that illustrates one in the spiritual. When a person doesn’t have an argument they resort to ad hominem attacks (personal name calling). It is a tactic used to silence those that think differently than you. This is a common stratagem of the political left. But what many Christians have failed to realize is that this is also used to silence spiritual correction/direction as well. I’d say that 99% of the time when someone calls a Christian a hypocrite it is an ad hominem attack. This article is not dealing with the other 1%.
When someone calls you a hypocrite, what really shows that something is amiss is when the validity or falsity of the charge that prompted the name calling isn’t being discussed. From this, it can be seen to be a deflection away from the topic of their sinful activity or proclivity. In essence the name callers are saying:
The hypocrite shrill’s favorite verse
“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye”. (Mathew 7: 3-5)
Satan has managed to turn this verse onto its head. Jesus’ words are pristine and clear to understand, yet people now twist this to enable sin. This may surprise you, but all sins are not created equal. Some are a lot worse than others. This verse clearly states that fact: specks verses planks (and yes, there can be a quantity qualifier). But the Lord’s call to repentance and sanctification here has been hijacked to silence holy correction. It is always presumed by the hypocrite caller that the other has the plank. The hypocrite caller is frequently the self-righteous one claiming higher spirituality by the charge. It’s remarkable. To understand who God is and what He considers “a plank” or “a speck”, one has to study His Word; A lot. It has been my observation that those that live carnally are quickest to label Christians as hypocrites. If a woman is going to kill her unborn child and a frustrated Christian calls her an unflattering name, these are not equivalent sins. Killing a baby and a harshly spoken word are not equal infractions: Particularly when the harsh word was spoken to save a baby. But this is the bizarre world we find ourselves in; with her calling him a hypocrite. What are the two sins being compared? And if your hypocrite accuser is only accusing you of “hypocrisy” without a qualifying sin, they’re talking out of their arse and have nothing. Pony up a sin and prove my hypocrisy. Let’s compare planks and specks.
Interestingly enough, amongst the Lord’s body, “specks” in such company are the “planks”. And the Lord’s children with smaller “specks” are helping other brothers with larger “specks”. The unsaved world, in comparison, have lumberyards in their eye. They can’t see, so they need to hear us. Don’t be silent.
Listen to a hypocrite?
To call someone a hypocrite is to malign their character. It is to say they are a bad person so you don’t need to listen to them. If they speak truth it is irrelevant. This doesn’t follow logically. Bad behavior doesn’t justify bad behavior, nor does someone else’s sin erase yours. If it did, Adam’s claim that he ate the fruit because Eve gave it to him would have kept him in Eden. “The woman gave it me”, or … “she is the sinner, punish her and not me”. It is truly a child’s argument to deflect from the topic of their sin. Darkness will always run from light. If God couldn’t use sinful people He couldn’t use anyone.
Now when we speak about hypocrites in the Bible a particular group comes to mind: The Pharisees. These were true hypocrites and are what Christians are fearful of emulating. But did Jesus say to not listen to these Pharisees?
A Warning Against HypocrisyThen Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach (Matt 23:2-3 NIV).
Did you get that? Jesus told the people to listen to the Pharisees on matters of Mosaic Law. Just don’t do as they do. Even the real hypocrites weren’t commanded to stop telling the truth. The truth must be proclaimed with authority. Otherwise, if everyone was a hypocrite, a hypocrite couldn’t tell a hypocrite he’s a hypocrite (that made me dizzy). And we’d all be lost in sin. So speak God’s Word. And move in pathways of increasing sanctification. Do not fear the accuser’s accusations against God’s children (Job 1:6). We know we are not perfect. That’s the starting point of our faith.
Can you imagine the implications of this false assertion; that if there is sin in your life, you are not allowed to warn people of their sin? It is saying we are no longer allowed to tell people who God is. If we don’t know what God likes and dislikes we don’t know Him.
Talking about sin is the new cultural taboo. It is politically incorrect. It is not nice. It is offensive. When you see this line of reasoning and the end product of this thinking, you can clearly see it is from the Devil. A man is not allowed to comment on abortion because he’s mansplaining. Whether abortion is right or wrong is no longer the topic. Men who wish to point out this wickedness are silenced. And ironically, they are regarded as evil. God defines evil. We do not. And if speaking God’s truth is now regarded as evil our culture, it is in a very dark place. But the term mansplaining was created to silence dissenting opinions. Calling someone a hypocrite is doing something similar.
A fool's way is right in his own eyes, but whoever listens to counsel is wise. (Proverbs 12:1 HCSB)
If a close brother comes to you in love and elucidates an error in your thinking and doing, this is a joyous experience. He has strengthened your relationship with your Father in heaven. Inversely, if a stranger calls you a hypocrite in anger they are the fool that resists wise council.
Now there are a couple parameters in understanding what constitutes the makeup of a hypocrite. And I do not wish to waste my time rehashing research that smarter people have already done. So I will quote from one of my favorite sources (and save myself 4 hours of expounding), Bakers Bible Encyclopedia:
Although no distinct Hebrew word for hypocrisy occurs in the Old Testament, the concept (is seen) in terms of insincere worship. The Lord rejects sacrificial offerings and temple attendance (Jer 7:4-11) when worshipers have no intimate knowledge of him or genuine love (Isa 1:11-17; Hosea 6:4-6; Amos 4:4-5; 5:21-24). Hypocrisy manifests itself in an inconsistency between external religious activity and religious profession (Isa 1:10-17).
The root idea in the Old Testament may be that the hypocrite has a godless heart (Job 36:13) that rebels against God's laws (Jer 7:21-24 ; Hosea 7:13-16 ; 8:1-2 ; cf. Jer 6:19-20) and generates wrongful Acts, including injustice and oppression (Isa 1:10-17 ; 58:2-7 ; Isaiah 59:2-4 Isaiah 59:13-15 ; Jer 7:5). In contrast, the true worshiper must come before the Lord with a pure heart (Psalm 15:2; 24:4). The hypocrite is also an ungodly rebel who flatters and deceives with his or her tongue (Psalm 5:9-10; 12:2-4; 78:36-37; Daniel 11:21 Daniel 11:27; Psalm 55:20-21) to promote godlessness (Daniel 11:32 Daniel 11:34).
The New Testament seems to combine the Old Testament concept of the godless rebel and the Greek hypokrisis, "stage-playing or acting." The Greek idea of "play-acting" seems paramount in Matthew 6:2, 5, 16, where Jesus warns against religious performance to impress men (vv. 5,16,18 cf. Matt 23:5). Hypocrites make an outward show of religion, whether in giving alms, praying, or fasting.The English concept of hypocrisy as failing to practice what one preaches is rarely found (Matt 23:3).
The hypocrite is self-deluded by his or her own pretension, which fools no one else (Matt 7:5; Luke 6:42). Hypocrisy may involve a failure to discern spiritual truth (Luke 12:54-56; 13:15; cf. Matt 12:7; 23:23) or even a willful blindness to spiritual matters (Matthew 23:17 Matthew 23:19 Matthew 23:23-24 Matthew 23:26).
Now you know the depth and breadth of the term!!!The hypocrite pretends goodness, but beneath a religious veneer is a malicious or deceitful heart (Matt 22:15-18; cf. 1 Peter 2:1). … As in the Old Testament a discrepancy exists between outward conformity to religious ritual and the true state of their hearts (Matt 23:25-30; contrast 5:8). Thus, the term "hypocrite" (Matt 24:51 ) can occur as a synonym for "unfaithful/unbeliever." Such "hypocrites" hinder others from coming to Christ and even make converts to their godless lifestyle (Matt 23:13 Matthew 23:15; cf. Daniel 11:32 Daniel 11:34). Or they deceive others into doctrinal error (1 Tim 4:1-2). Thus hypocrisy is implied as one of the evidences of earthly or demonic wisdom (James 3:13-17).
The term is largely irrelevant in our culture
“Religious performance to impress men”
One of my big points of contention is the relevance of this term in today’s society. The Bible speaks of hypocrites within the tight confines of the homogenous Jewish culture of that day. Being holy was a culturally good thing. Holy men were esteemed and respected. Knowledge of scripture was a badge of honor. Faith was works centered so if you feigned compliance of the 10 commandment (and 603 other laws) you were perceived as occupying a higher moral strata, and as such, sought out and honored. You were both an intellectual and a rock star.
This is not true today. Our popular culture hates Christianity. And Christianity is not work centered. We do not earn our salvation. Meaning Christians do not think we are better because we act better. A self-righteous Christian is an oxymoron. We are free men who were once slaves. A man named Jesus removed our chains. He can remove everyone’s chains. So we try to introduce them to Him. Think back to the American civil war. When you try to free the slaves the slave owners get mad. The culture adores slavery. It hates Jesus. It hates us. We are not celebrated.
I remember reading an online newspaper article that was in the sport’s section. It was mocking a Christian football player for praying before the game. Why was this newsworthy? A thousand comments in the comment section likewise mocked him and pointed out how stupid he was. He garnered no honor unto himself by this act of devotion. He was hated for it. Yet, as is always the case, I saw a dumb arse comment calling him a hypocrite. People don’t even know what the word means.
If in private, you point out a sin unto damnation in an acquaintance’s life, what honor have you solicited unto yourself? Your acquaintance will likely bite back at you and avoid you. You will be seen as a self-righteous jerk. You are not esteemed for it. You are not regarded as holy for it. In fact, you will likely be seen as less holy for it. Our culture doesn’t believe, so being Godly is not a seen as badge of honor. Its effects are more akin to a worldly curse of hostility. We are more likely than not to be regarded as lepers. Today’s truth speaker shares none of the accolades of yesterday’s Pharisee. And it was for those accolades the Pharisee acted hypocritical. We have none of these dynamics in our culture.
The validity of the charge
Let’s look at it metaphorically. Imagine you are driving your car and speeding. You are breaking the law and a policeman notices. He turns on his lights and pulls you over.
He tells you, “You are endangering your life and others. You were doing 100 in a 50 zone”.
You might contest the law? You might contest the speed you were going? You might slow down and learn from the exchange? But would you call the officer a hypocrite? Does the fact that the officer has sped in his life give you a blank check to drive at any speed? Does it give you immunity from the law?
Many people have wisdom from life. They have learnt from their errors and try not to repeat them. This odd teaching would mean we couldn’t pass wisdom on that we have learnt.
Imagine if the officer retorted, “I used to speed until I killed someone. Now I don’t”.
How foolish you would feel. Irregardless of this, the law is the law. Speeders will be prosecuted.
The hypocrite shrill is contesting the law.
Jonah was told to warn Nineveh that they were not following God’s directions. Jonah refused to follow God’s directions and ran way. Later, Jonah did go to Nineveh and warned them to obey God. Luckily the Ninevites didn’t call him a hypocrite but instead repented.
Peter denied Jesus 3 times. Does this make Peter a hypocrite for later telling people to follow Jesus? No. If this is your shallow understanding of what hypocrisy is, then you are wrong. You do not understand Jesus’ teaching on this.
As Christians we must safe guard the meaning of our doctrine. And the meaning of words plays an important role in understanding those doctrines. If we allow the enemy to gradually shift the meaning of a word away from its Scriptural moorings we will stumble into error and false doctrine. Fear not the false charge of hypocrisy. Fear God.