The term hypocrite get thrown around a lot in Church circles. Simply, according to Miriam-Webster, a hypocrite is “a person who claims or pretends to have certain beliefs about what is right but who behaves in a way that disagrees with those beliefs.” Many believe that people in the church say one thing and do the opposite. People don’t like being told to do (or not do) something by other people that they themselves aren’t (or are) doing. People hate people who appear pious to act impiously. They feel the “fakeness” of the impious acting piously because they know instinctively that bad people don’t really do good things.
The question is though is this description really fitting of Christians? Do they act differently than what they profess? Actually, true Christians are not hypocrites. Actually, the non-Christians are the hypocrites.
Jesus constantly addresses the Pharisees with the term hypocrite. His usage is best found in this phrase, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” (Matthew 23:29-33, ESV). Notice that Jesus is pronouncing judgment by a standard he knows they hold and shows them to be wanting. The Pharisees claim to stand in the tradition of the Prophets when they really have deviated from that. He points out that the Pharisees were being judged by the Prophets to be shown as the murderers of the prophets. Their sentence would be Hell and they are piling up more and more evidence to validate that sentence.
Even though Jesus seems to make a big deal about, this is term is only thrown around in the gospels. Paul, Peter, James or John doesn’t use this word in any of their letters to Churches. Ironically, these churches often acted contrary to their stated belief and probably every much as inconsistent as the Pharisees. When Paul confronts Peter in Galatians 2 for instance, he says that Peter was acting in contrary to Gospel, not that he was a hypocrite. Why? Wasn’t it obvious that Peter was being a hypocrite? He should have jumped on him with this term and showed that Peter, the man that received the vision from God in Acts 10-12 that all foods were clean and preached to all men from many nations in Acts 2, was acting like elusive racist while he proclaimed an “inclusive” message. Why doesn’t Paul pounce?
Or what about when Paul hears of a man with his father’s wife in 1 Corinthians 5? Does Paul say “You hypocrites! How dare you accept this sin that even the outside world hates while saying that you love marriage? No. He discusses “judging” those inside of the Church rather than those on the outside because God judges those on the outside of the church with the standard of grace. The apostle does call them arrogant and they should be mourning for this sin but he doesn’t use the “h-word”.
Or James, talking about the tongue, “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so,” does he call those members of the church hypocrites in James 3? No, James judges this to be wrong and exhorts them to look at their nature since can fig trees produce olives?
There is the rub. Jesus seems to reserve the term hypocrite for only those outside of the Church and no apostle even feels comfortable using it. Why? The answer is found in the Christian Gospel. This good news says that yes, you think you are better than you but really your nature is bad. Depraved. Without the ability to choose good. In your nature, you are a sinner. As much as you say to the contrary, that is want you are. Everyone who says that they can do good is a liar and a hypocrite. The “grading curve” we attempt to use to justify the myth we aren’t that bad, will be held to us to show up that we can even live up to that standard, let alone the standard a Holy and Righteous God. By the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who lived perfectly in action according to his nature (100%God and 100% Human) showed us by contrast the depths of our depravity and obeyed in our place and took the punishment in our place to give us a new life, new heart as a new creation. We are then saved unto good works we are able to do through our new nature.
This as a result means two things. Christians should know that to their core are really bad and they we need to be judged. We are working out our salvation with fear and trembling but we need the Law to shine on us to point out that our words are not matching our new nature. Repent and allow the grace of God train us to renounce ungodliness and world passion to live self-controlled, godly lives in this present age (Titus 2:11-12). Being a Christian should mean that he or she welcomes the judging. It doesn’t mean we like it all of the time but we are humble enough to receive. Since we recognize our utter dependence on the grace of God in Jesus, our worth is not tried to our work but to His alone. This frees us from the sting of judgment because this is no longer tied to our eternal destiny.
So when the people of the “judge” the church, we welcome it. That is what our message says. So are we really hypocrites? Do our actions conflict with our confession? Not really. Are there some Christians that don’t receive judgment well but our message allows for that. We realize there is a Judge that will judge us unless for the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. But also, when we “judge”, it for those inside of the Church based upon the agreed upon standard that is external. Anyone can read the Bible and “hold us accountable.”
But yet, if your standard is “judge not, yet you be judged” and you say the church shouldn’t judge, your actions are not matching your words. If judging is bad and you are judging, what does that say about you? You are violating your own standard and you stand guilty. You are your own judge, jury, and executioner (not to mention the Holy God who says Judge not, yet you be judged or the same standard will be held to you). Who hates being judged but will willing judge others with the greatest of ease?
Who is really the hypocrite?