Vain Hypocrisy

Part of me wanted to make this post at, but I realized this might be less devotional than deserves (a problem when you write at both, and the lines are often gray).

Christians have long been trained to abhor the word hypocrite. Jesus has a thing or 10 about hypocrites. The problem is that often the word is thrown at Christians (i.e., being called hypocrites)…and Christians shut down.

It’s True

We are all (Christian and non-Christian) hypocrites in some way shape or form. Barring the very, very, very few humans that aren’t (and this crosses tribe, nation, religion, non-religion, politics), we all perform some mode of hypocrisy.

Christians, though, are hypersensitive to the accusation. So hypersensitive that they have not even read Jesus’ words to determine what Jesus was calling out. This starts at the pulpit.

Which leads to a very weird problem. Christians recognize that they bear some sort of hypocrisy. It is, sadly, part of our understanding of the Fallen human condition. We can hear it preached. We can read it.

Yet, we freeze when we think it just might be pointed at us.

It’s Universal

When someone accuses Christians of being hypocritical, we shouldn’t be quick to accept that at face value. While it is true, that statement should actually be the door that is being opened for us to talk about our faith and, more importantly, Jesus.

Sure. Accept the accusation…with an addendum, “yes, we, too, are fallen humans that desperately need Jesus everyday.”

It’s an Excuse

I don’t know the actual term (I might amend this post later once I figure it out), but I think the reason people use hypocrite against is to stop the discussion. People know and understand that Christians have this hypersensitivity to the claim, plus its reality, thus the discussion is closed.

A Story

Jane Doe was being interviewed at a car dealership for a sales position (The story is true, though the name is changed, FWIW.):

She was asked, “are you honest?”
She replied, “Yes.”
She was asked, “have you ever lied?”
She replied, “Yes.”
She was asked, “are you honest?”

So, was Jane a liar? Was Jane honest? Was Jane a hypocrite? You tell me.

General to Specific

Another response might be? “I often see that, too, and it frustrates and hurts (or another word) me. What do you find hypocritical in me?”

This one is scary. You’re opening yourself up to critique. You are also passively attacking their generalist argument, and making the point that hypocrisy is about the individual, not Jesus (or even the faith).

You are also showing vulnerability, trust, and (I hope) willingness to learn and understand. You are also hopefully softening them to not slam the door because of, well…judgementalism.

Truthfully Wrong

Which leads me to the next part, which is, just because an accusation is made, doesn’t make it true. The common universal dismissal of Christians because they are all hypocritical is, on some levels, hypocritical in and of itself.

By saying “all”, one is putting oneself into a position of knowing the heart of every Christian, every where, every when. When people do that outside of calling Christians hypocrites, we call it ignorance and prejudice.

Wrong View

He told this next parable against those who trusted in their own righteous standing and despised others.

‘Two men’, he said, ‘went up to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, the other was a tax-collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed in this way to himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like the other people – greedy, unjust, immoral, or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I get.”

‘But the tax-collector stood a long way off, and didn’t even want to raise his eyes to heaven. He beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am.” Let me tell you, he was the one who went back to his house vindicated by God, not the other. Don’t you see? People who exalt themselves will be humbled, and people who humble themselves will be exalted.’

Luke 18:9–14 (NTE)

When we hear the accusation of hypocrisy and respond to it, to whom are we looking? Are we looking to God, or are we looking to others?

While it is not my place to say it applies to those outside of my faith, I wonder if those outside of the faith who are quick to accuse Christians of hypocrisy are being, well…the same as the Pharisee in this parable.

“Thankfully (whether God or something else is used here), I’m not like those awful stupid Christians.”

Now, this still does not excuse bad Christian behavior towards others, but it provides an example from Jesus what we should be seeing, and more importantly, to whom we should be looking.

My statements about those outside of the faith also don’t excuse Christians (including myself) from reviewing our hearts to assure we are not like the Pharisee. When we discover we have been, well, then we take the place of the tax-collector, “I’ve sinned and am unworthy. Please forgive me.”

If we have been honest and true in that, we will be able to return home vindicated (meaning, mercifully excused from our sins) by God.

Burying our Heads

‘Don’t judge people, and you won’t be judged yourself. You’ll be judged, you see, by the judgment you use to judge others! You’ll be measured by the measuring-rod you use to measure others! Why do you stare at the splinter in your neighbour’s eye, but ignore the plank in your own? How can you say to your neighbour, “Here – let me get that splinter out of your eye,” when you’ve got the plank in your own? You’re just play-acting! First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you’ll see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your neighbour’s eye.

Matthew 7:1-5 (NTE)

I’m not one to bury my head in the sand. Sometimes my heart, but less my head (though I’m sure I do). The world is falling apart, and yet it’s not.

I understand, and even agree with, much of the concern about moral differentiation from what I (at least) understand to be God’s intent/design. I also agree with many that the Church (as a whole) has a lot to clean up.

While I’m not going to debate which failure or sin as a plank versus a splinter, as that really isn’t Jesus’ point, the reality is we all probably have both.

To be better about another’s splinter (or plank), one must be honest with one’s own issues. Sometimes a person may see their splinter as a plank, or their plank as a splinter. How are you (how am I) any different?

Are you torn up with feelings of angst regarding being a hypocrite (talking to Christians, in particular)? Okay. Be the tax collector, repent and move on.

You cannot answer for another’s failings. You can take responsibility for yours. You can even, in some ways, take responsibility for others’ as I provided examples above.

What I think though, is that you are not taking responsibility for their failings, but you are taking responsibility for how you will show yourself to others.

Don’t let the hypocrisy of others be your guilt trip.