In the New International Version of the Bible, the word “hypocrite” (or some variant of it) appears roughly four dozen times. About half of those instances are attributed to Jesus as he chastised the self-righteous. Amos and other prophets condemn example after example of the hypocrisy of God’s people. They say God finds it so detestable that no quantity or quality of sacrifices can make up for it.
As we hope for the coming of the Kingdom, let’s do what we can to eliminate the hypocrisies in our own lives. We all have them; they’re virtually inescapable. Maybe we don’t feel we are capital-H hypocrites like those who troubled Jesus, but condemning them while ignoring our own failings is … well … hypocritical.
These behaviors are insidious, because often we justify our hypocrisy enough not to be bothered by it. Like when we rail against the sleazy tactics of the opposing political party, yet turn a blind eye toward less than honorable actions of our own side because they are doing it “for the right reason.” Or when we compromise our principles (“I believe in sustainability!”) because they might cost us money (“But fair trade coffee is a dollar more per pound!”). And when we claim to follow Christ, then find reasons to blame the poor, the alien, the imprisoned, the sick, and the sinful for their plight rather than love and serve them as we’ve been told.
The Kingdom we hope for is not one where everyone else changes and we get to bask in the satisfaction of how right we’ve been all along. To be good citizens of the Kingdom — now or in the future — we can’t assume we’ll be better people because the world will be a better place. That’s like saying: “I’ll learn to turn the other cheek when you cease to offend me.” To the contrary, the world will be a better place because we will be better people living into the fullness of Christ’s love.
It’s not easy to face our own hypocrisy, nor realistic to think we will eliminate it entirely, but the nearer we draw to Christ the more authentic we become.
Comfort: God loves us as we are, and because God loves us we can be better.
Challenge: Ask someone you trust to point out an area where you can be hypocritical.
Prayer: Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry; give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit. (Psalm 17:1)
Discussion: What hypocrisies have you discovered within yourself?
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