“I don’t go to church; there’s too many hypocrites!” How many times have you heard that line? It’s a lot like saying, “I don’t go to the gym cause of all the outa shape people!” This may sound a little silly, but truthfully, there is little difference between the two. The word “hypocrite” is used a lot these days, but more often than not it is used out of its contextual worth. In prayer, the Lord prompted me to study this well used, often-overrated word for posterity. Specifically speaking, the thought hit me, “I am the only one who ever called anyone out for being a hypocrite.” Either that was the Lord, or my mind was speaking for Him in first person. Either way, I felt it was my obligation to see if this was true.Sure enough, it was, not one writer of the New Testament ever called anyone a hypocrite. Another little factoid that caught my attention was this word is never used again after Luke 13:15. New Testament writers warn against hypocrisy, and hypocrisies in three verses in the Epistles, but no one ever used it to describe someone who was apprehended by Christ through the New Birth experience. I was now curious and compelled to understand why. What is a hypocrite? Whom did Jesus call a hypocrite? Why did Jesus call these people hypocrites? Why was Jesus the only figure in New Testament to call people out for being a hypocrite?
Defining and Answering Questions
According to Webster, the word hypocrite means, “a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion.” Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible translates it from the Greek, “hupokrite,” and it means, “An actor under an assumed character.” Jesus used the word hypocrite and its derivatives 17 times in three Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Every time Jesus called out someone for being a hypocrite, it was in chastisement of the Sadducees or Pharisees for condemning others for things that they did themselves. For instance, when the rulers of the synagogue began to rebuke Jesus for healing on the Sabbath, Jesus reminded them that they too broke the Sabbath by their own reasoning, having loosed their animals out of their stalls for watering (Luke 13:14-16). It is important to understand how Jesus could say these things to the rulers of the temple. First, he knew their hearts (Matthew 22:17-19). He was both God and man and He knew the thoughts and intents of their hearts. Second, these pious religious leaders knew that Jesus was right. They knew that they were asking true worshipers to do things that they would never do themselves (Luke 11:46). Thus, Jesus called them out on their poor acting performance.
The Most Important Question
Having answered three of our four questions, it comes down to our last, but most important question. Why did the Apostles not follow in Christ footsteps and label the pretenders as Jesus did? Simply, they were not Jesus. They could not discern the thoughts and intents of man’s heart. We can learn a lesson from the great Angel Gabriel, who when contending with Satan did not accuse him, but said, “The Lord rebuke thee” (Jude 1:9). There are many who act the part of a Christian and have no real desire to serve Christ, yet true Christians are called to love and not to brand. Certainly, we must stand against sin, but not the sinner. Who knows what Jesus can and will do in the life of those who we would brand as hypocritical. Are there hypocrites in the church? Maybe, but our goal should not be finding them and pointing them out; on the contrary, our goal should be serving and praying for those that may fall short.
A Final Thought
Finally, are Christians who have obvious sin in their lives hypocrites? This is a hard question to answer. The immediate response of the judgmental may be, “Yes!!” So and so claims to be a Christian, but he was ‘cursin’ like a sailor last night! What a hypocrite!” We see the Christian fall, but rarely are we there when Christ picks him or her back up to continue the race. Thus, the world and some well-meaning Christians may quickly join the cause to brandish others as hypocrites, but since they are not all knowing they doubtful have the authority to make that call. Some may argue, “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). Yet, this qualification was not to judge Christian values, but false prophet doctrine. Matthew 7:15 sets the preceding verse 16 in context. Verse 16 says, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”
Some say, “Judgment begins at the house of God; I gotta right to call it as I see it.” Yet, that judgment is reserved, more than likely, for Christ himself who chastises His children, and thus, judgment begins at the house of God so that our end will not be as it will be for those who obey not the Gospel of our great and merciful God (I Peter 4:17). In context, we see that we should not think our fiery trials strange, we should not be ashamed to suffer for being a Christian; judgment begins at the house of God. This is not a “talk behind the back” judgment, nor is it an “ignore them until they leave the church and then pray for them judgment.” In reality it is a, “prepare yourself here for there” judgment that is initiated by Christ. Let us worry less about hypocrites in the church, and more about loving one another as Christ loves us.