Hypocrites

Q. One of the reasons why my husband refused to believe in Christ is that there are so many hypocrites in the church. They are two-faced, acting very pious in church but no different from us when they are in the marketplace. This really puts him off Christianity. I know we’re not to judge but how should I respond?

A. This is one of the main hurdles hindering people from receiving Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior – the inconsistency between what they proclaim and what they do. First, I want to point out that not only is this a problem to many unbelievers, it is an issue with the Lord Jesus as well. Of all the people He chastised, He reserved the most severe rebuke for the hypocrites. In Matthew 23 alone, He pronounced “woes” to the scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites eight times. Read them for yourself in Mt 23:13, 14, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27 and 29. The Lord is full of compassion and merciful towards sinners, but He disliked hypocrites the most.

Secondly, why should it surprise anyone to find hypocrites in church? Many people assumed, wrongly, that everyone in church should be holy. While it is true that those who are in the universal Church, the Body of Christ, are separated unto God and made holy, this is not necessarily the case in the local church. The Lord Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Mt 9:13; Mk 2:17; Lk 5:32), so it is natural to find sinners in church until they come to know God personally and repent. Even after a sinner repents, sanctification (being made holy) takes time. We don’t expect everyone who confess faith in Christ to be a “saint” (in our common usage of the term) instantly. You may see flaws in a person’s life and look down on him, but maybe compared to where he had been, he had already made great progress, so don’t be so hasty in our judgment.

Third, closely related to the above, not everyone who professes to be a Christian is necessarily a genuine follower of Christ. In the parable of the Tares and the Wheat, the Lord’s enemy (Satan) purposely sowed tares (darnel, a weed resembling wheat) among the wheat. The devil sowed the sons of the evil one to confuse people and to cause the sons of the kingdom to stumble, but their separation will be in the time of the harvest at the end of the age, not now. So, the hypocrites you see may not be Christians at all; they are tares, not wheat, but people assume they are Christians and their behavior give Christians a bad name.

Fourth, the One who examines us is the Lord:

  • Rom 14:10 But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 
  • 1 Co 4:5 Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.

Judgment belongs to the Lord alone. We are in no position to judge our brother or those outside. We don’t know the things hidden in darkness, nor the motives in men’s hearts, only God knows. So, don’t try to usurp the Lord’s role as judge.

How should we respond, besides withholding judgment and praying to leave the matter in the Lord’s hands?

  • Gal 6:1 Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.

“Any trespass” would include hypocrisy. So, if you consider yourself spiritual, our responsibility is to restore the trespasser in a spirit of gentleness. Let me borrow from

  • Mt 18:15 If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.

The context is a brother sinning against you, but the principle is the same. Confront and warn the hypocrite in private. If he listens and repents, good for him. Even if he does not listen, good for you, because you have warned him. It’s a difficult task, but that’s the job of mature Christians, not just pastors.

Lastly, don’t be hypocritical yourself. The essence of hypocrisy is saying but not doing, so do what you say:

  • Mt 23:3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.
  • Mt 5:37 But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.
  • Jas 5:12 But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.
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Comments

  • Nancy Wu  On May 27, 2019 at 7:48 pm

    Which church do you go to? Why do you go to church ?
    My husband has made the same remark. He indiscriminately identify Christian as any body who go to a “Christian ” church. It is not as simple as he is leading on. The culprits are also his close “Christian” kins , but I am the chief culprit sinner, even if he denies it. I was a terrible person. I have changed my ways though. Now I try to be very careful in what I do and say, especially in front of my husband. Acts 16:31 Believe .. you and your household will be saved. It means that I have a responsibility to my household. I learn more about Jesus the Savior from reading the Bible and from the net. I go to church because of Hebrew 10:25. I believe mine is a true biblical church. Yet the majority is (to my dismay and surprise) vindictive, calculating, narrow-minded, self-righteous “pious Christians”. Making a remark like this, I am no better than they are and may be worse. We have to pray for each others. I would often “turn my eyes upon Jesus…..”. When I humble myself, I find many good Christ-like people whose examples I want to follow. Even these people do not measure up to Jesus’ holiness, as said in Roman 3:10 “none is righteous”. Jesus came to give life, not only to change bad people good, and I want that life. I encourage my husband to pray to Jesus Christ for enlightenment. I reminded him that with all his education, he should not be foolish enough to ignore all the historical and scientific proofs of an omnipotent Creator that has paid a huge price to save His beloved created man kind. I would often bomb him with Bible verses to remind him that all man will die, the only way to heaven is Jesus Christ who is the only living omnipotent God. Every day I pray God to give him back his faith in Jesus Christ. We all need our Lord’s mercy.
    We are often reminded of God’s unfathomable love. We have to remember His unfathomable righteous wrath as in Revelation.

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