Do you remember the first time you tasted hypocrisy in organized religion?
I was eleven years old when I first experienced it. Like most people, I assumed most people aren’t sincere, but I believed that at least people in the Church told the truth.
Then one day I volunteered to help out at my church’s work day. I worked outside for several hours, digging in the weeds and doing all kinds of stuff. When I got thirsty, I walked into the church kitchen to get a drink of water. And that’s when I saw a bunch of the church leaders sitting in the worship center and overheard their conversation. They were cussing and swearing and making crude remarks, even some comments about Jesus.
I thought to myself, “Let’s see, on Sunday they say, ‘Don’t do this.’ But now we are at a church work day, and they’re doing exactly that!”
I vividly remember thinking, “I don’t know much about God, but they are the leaders, so God must be a lot like them. I don’t want anything to do with them, so I don’t want anything to do with God.”
Everyone hates hypocrisy. But have you ever wondered how God feels about it and why?
The harshest words that have ever been spoken by the Son of Man, the Lord Jesus, were around the areas of hypocrisy. In fact, the most significant words of reproof He ever uttered were toward the most religious people on the planet:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”
“You snakes! You brood of vipers.” (Matthew 23:27-28, 33)
Those are extremely harsh words. Why is hypocrisy such a big deal to God? I mean, isn’t murder or adultery worse?
In Ephesians 5, God reveals why He has zero tolerance for it.
“Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” (v. 1-2)
When we receive Christ, we’re given a new identity. As sons and daughters of God, we are loved, accepted, secure, and have an inheritance. We also have the power of the Holy Spirit living inside of us – the same power that raised Christ from the dead.
As part of our new identity, we are given two commands that every Christian is to follow:
- Mimic God. Mimic, or imitate, His kindness and holiness. As a child in a family, take on and mimic the characteristics of the holy, loving, kind, and compassionate God.
- Love people. And how are we to love people? The same way Jesus loved people. In a warm, accepting, authentic, selfless, sacrificial way. Love people to the point that it costs you. Love people, not for what they will do for you, but as an act of worship.
“…for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth)” (v. 8-9)
We are called to “walk as children of the Light.” But walking – or living – this way is not about being perfect. It’s about being authentic.
When unbelievers see and interact with Christians who are authentic, they begin to see that maybe all Christians aren’t a bunch of hypocrites. As a result, they are more open to receiving God’s love and forgiveness through a relationship with Christ.
If you’d like to know more about how to overcome hypocrisy and live a winsome, whole and holy life, check out Chip’s series: Stop Faking It! Live Without Hypocrisy.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip