I am on the record as a huge fan of the Muppets. Two very underrated characters were Statler and Waldorf, the two grumpy old guys who sat in the balcony and criticized the show every week. I loved those guys. Here is a sampling of the sarcastic stylings of Statler and Waldorf.
Statler: What would you do if you were a rich man?
Waldorf: I'd buy the network and cancel this show!
Statler: Wake up you old fool. You slept through the show.
Waldorf: Who's a fool? You watched it.
Statler: I wonder if there really is life on another planet?
Waldorf: Why do you care? You don't have a life on this one!
Okay, I will concede that the Muppet faces and voices made the lines funnier.
I am thinking of auditioning for a grumpy partner to sit in the blogosphere balcony with me and critique the culture. Any takers?
Today’s topic for the still solo grumpy old man? Hypocrites. There is no more damaging name to lay on a church goer than the dreaded title of hypocrite. Sometimes it is used unfairly. Often it is a smokescreen used by folks who want an excuse not to examine faith in their own lives. You have heard the line I'm sure.
I used to go to church but it is full of hypocrites.
The temptation is always to remind them there is room for one more hypocrite in the building. The more mature response as followers of Christ is to examine that charge seriously in our own lives. The word hypocrite comes from a Greek word that means actor. How appropriate. People are watching. And we too often give Oscar caliber performances on Sunday morning. They see that on Sunday you're a saint and on Monday you ain't. And that does damage. It is time to look in the spiritual mirror and drop the masquerades. If we are following Jesus it will make a difference in our lives. I am not talking perfection or even close to it. But there should be ongoing changes and growth in your journey with Christ. Look up synonyms for hypocrite and you will find words like fraud, phony, deceiver, fake, impostor, pretender, and sham. Not pretty words. But if you think those are rough how about the words of Jesus on this topic?
I found sixteen times that Jesus used the word hypocrite in the New International Version of the Bible. Jesus did not pull any punches in his disgust for the "religious" types who were Sabbath saints only. We tend to read the words of Jesus that are directed at the Pharisees almost like we watch the boss chew out a co-worker. "Whew," we exclaim, "I'm sure glad that is them and not me." But the warnings of Jesus to the phony Pharisees are also directed at me and you.
"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
"So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
I am learning that God is not impressed by my showy words or worship. He is glorified when I take care of the widows and children without calling attention to myself. He blesses me when I give without expecting return. God does not want my eloquence in prayer, He wants my heart in prayer. He honors me when I serve without expectation.
But there is more. This passage knocks me to my knees.
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
That is what scares me so much about my Sunday morning masquerade. I can clean up the outside real purty. But God knows what lies beneath. It is scary and painful and ugly to allow the Holy Spirit to start cleaning out the dirt, the dead bones, and everything unclean. But we will never experience God the way He desires to relate to us unless we are willing to do just that. Frankly I don't see the point of being a Sunday Christian. If this is real we need to pursue it seven days a week. The hardest truth I have had to admit as a husband, father, follower of Jesus is that I make time for those things that are a priority to me. There can be short time diversions for work or circumstance. But over the weeks and months where I invest my time reveals my heart. That is a hard truth.
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Blessings and grace,