Hypocrisy and the practice of it. Nobody likes it. You don’t like it. I don’t like it. Jesus didn’t like it (Matt. 6:1-24, 23:11-33). Even those who practice it must not really like it, as they so often seem to be some of the most consistently angry, bitter, and miserable people in the world.
Hypocrisy itself means to wear a mask, to pretend to be something that one is really not, often in order to personally benefit from the deception. Perhaps you may have heard someone who used to attend church regularly say that they stopped going because of the hypocrites there. The fact is that, yes, sadly, there are indeed hypocrites in the church. There always have been. There were hypocrites in the first century church (Acts 5:1-10; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; 3 Jn. 9-10). There were hypocrites among her preachers (Phil. 1:15-17). In fact, we are informed by the Lord that there always will be hypocrites amongst religious leaders (2 Ptr. 2:1-3; 1 Tim. 4:1-5). We are, however, also assured that He will personally deal with all such come judgment day, punishing them ever so severely for their hypocrisy (Matt. 13:41-43, 23:31-36, 24:45-51; Rom. 2:1-11).
Having established these foundational facts regarding hypocrisy, let us now turn our attention to the true focus of today’s article: How can one tell, when those who make the statement that they stopped attending (or never started attending church in the first place) because of all the hypocrites there, if that is the real reason why they do not attend, or if that is just an excuse they are using because they’d rather please and live for themselves, than to obey and live for the Lord? The answer is actually quite simple.
If one is being truly honest and sincere in their statement that the reason they refuse to attend the worship assemblies of the church anymore is because of hypocrites in the church, then they should be just as consistent in their outright rejection of any other venue wherein such hypocrisy is present as well. In other words, they should no longer allow themselves to go shopping for food or anything else – because there are hypocrites in the stores. They will no longer be able to go to work, but should immediately quit their jobs – because there is surely hypocrisy in the work place as well. They will never again attend any sporting event of any kind – because of the hypocrites present there. Neither can they ever attend any family, social, political, or any other event ever again where other people are present either – because wherever you have people, you will inevitably have some level of hypocrisy found present in some.
The only way to legitimately guarantee the absence of hypocrisy, is to avoid all other people at all cost… or is it? You see, when one who professes to either love, follow, or even believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of the living God, suddenly decides to disobey His commandment NOT to forsake the assembly of the church for which He was willing to pour out His very life’s blood (see: Hebs. 10:19-39), are they not still, by sitting home alone, completely and totally surrounded and overwhelmed by the sin of their own hypocrisy? Consider for a moment: To follow Jesus is to obey His commands (Jn. 14:15-21). To obey His commands is to NOT forsake the assembly (Heb. 10:23-25). Therefore, is it not the absolute height of hypocrisy for one who claims to know andfollow Jesus, to yet disobey Him by forsaking the assembly of His church? Scripture certainly seems to so say.
So what is the answer then? How do we properly deal with and avoid the ever-present sin of hypocrisy in the assembly – or anywhere else for that matter? The answer is incredibly simple: Let us do exactly what Jesus did. (WWJD?) First off, He certainly did not stop associating with Peter, James, John and the rest of the apostles, simply because one of their number – Judas – was a complete and total hypocrite. And make no mistake about it, Jesus knew that about Judas from the very beginning. He knew that Judas was both a “devil” (Jn. 6:70), and a “thief” (Jn. 12:4-6), and that he was simply posing as a faithful disciple for whatever personal gain he might possibly be able to get out of it. In fact, so incredibly convincing was Judas in his hypocrisy, that even after three and a half years of very close, intimate, social and spiritual interaction with and amongst Jesus’ closest disciples, none of his peers ever even suspected what an incredibly fake, false, self-serving and hypocritical tool of Satan he truly was (Mk. 14:17-19; Jn. 13:18-30).
Secondly and most importantly however, is precisely how Jesus did deal with Judas’ hypocrisy instead (as He set the perfect example for how we should go about dealing with the ever-present sin of hypocrisy within the groups we frequent as well – and particularly when it comes to our assembling with the saints). Jesus never abandoned assembling with them, but instead, determined to be there and teach by both word, deed, and especially His example, exactly what a life completely devoid of hypocrisy truly looks like so that others could see and emulate it. That is what those who truly want to avoid hypocrisy in the church will do; while those who are simply using the hypocrisy of others as an excuse to avoid assembling with and serving them, will simply and sinfully continue to sit at home, completely submerged in their own self-imposed style thereof.
Which are you? We’ll see on Sunday…