If you’ve been in the church long enough, you start to notice a strange phenomenon. Some members of your congregation may speak godly words at church, then walk out the door and act completely differently in their real lives. You might have heard these people referred to as wolves in sheep’s clothing. Put simply, they are hypocrites.
I recently watched this phenomenon play itself out firsthand, as a woman I knew from church resorted to name-calling on Facebook after a “friend” commented with a dissenting opinion on her political post. It took me aback for a moment, as I wondered how others would know that she was a Christian when she behaved in such a manner in a public forum.
All of us are in danger of hypocrisy because we are all sinners. It is easy to slip and fall into human habits of sin… even when we are regular church-goers.
Jesus condemned that the religious leaders of biblical times, “... honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:8-9)
But when we are true followers of Jesus Christ, we do not say one thing and do another. We must be on guard against this behavior in our own lives.
In a blog post, pastor and author Tim Challies writes that people who merely pretend to be godly should be warned of five things:
1. Hypocrisy angers God.
Challies writes, “God hates hypocrisy and hypocrites… because hypocrisy misuses religion, taking advantage of its laws and decrees for self-advancement. The hypocrite wants religion—even the Christian faith—only for the advantages he gains from it.”
God’s laws are the only laws that Christians should be preaching. When we twist these around too meet our own desires, it angers God.
2. Hypocrisy is self-delusion.
“Many hypocrites deceive themselves, thinking that their hypocritical deeds are evidence of true godliness or, even worse, that they have the ability to merit God’s favor,” Challies says.
Acting hypocritically ultimately hurts yourself because you lose favor with God. Don’t believe that hypocrisy is okay if it’s not hurting anyone. It is hurting someone: you.
3. Hypocrisy is offensive to God and man.
“Unbelievers hate the hypocrite because he makes himself appear godly; God hates him because he merely looks godly,” writes Challies.
No one finds hypocrisy to be an attractive quality. Not God, not the world. You don’t want to become everyone’s enemy.
4. Hypocrisy is pointless.
Challies says, “The hypocrite may labor hard in this life, but as soon as he dies he will lose absolutely everything. The only reward he will be able to enjoy will be in this life since he will certainly be condemned in death.”
What is the point in pretending to godly when it ends in eternal damnation? Sinners will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21). Genuine believers who have accepted Christ will.
5. Hypocrisy brings no comfort in death.
“People who have only painted over their depravity with a thin veneer of counterfeit holiness will find themselves without hope and without comfort upon their deathbed,” writes Challies.
A life of false Christianity is not one of happiness. A life lived in holiness is what one can look back on without regrets.
How can the hypocrite save himself from a live of sin? Scripture says clearly: Repent.
Tim Challies writes, “... there is hope for the hypocrite and the words of Paul should ring in the ears of the hypocrite: ‘Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?’ (Romans 2:4). Those who turn to Christ in repentance and faith will be cleansed of every sin, including this one.”
And if you are living a holy life, what can you do to keep hypocrites from making you stumble in your own faith?
Crosswalk.com contributor Debbie McDaniel writes, “The best way to expose the false lies of the enemy is to know the Truth of the One voice who matters most. Know the real and you'll know what is false… As we keep pressing in to know God, who is real, who is Truth, and we set our minds on His Word, spending time there, meditating on it, eventually we become very trained in detecting the ‘fake.’"
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