Where Hypocrisy is Born
Last week I attended a gathering titled "The Dare Effect" with guest speaker Dilly's Brooks. This blog series are my thoughts on some of the conversations we engaged in.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like a grave that has been whitewashed. You look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside you are full of moldering bones and decaying rot. You appear, at first blush, to be righteous, selfless, and pure; but on the inside you are polluted, sunk in hypocrisy and confusion and lawlessness (Mat. 23:27-28, The Voice).Hypocrisy is "the practice of claiming to have higher standards or more noble beliefs than is the case." We have all seen this type of thing taking place in every sphere of life whether it be church, school, the club, or the foxhole - there are phony people everywhere. But for some reason its Christian hypocrites that really seem to get people riled up. But rather than write another article on how lame sanctimonious two-faces are allow me to turn the tables and ask the uncomfortable question, How do I know if I am a hypocrite?
Jesus gives me the answer. In Matthew 24:10 he talks about believers "turn[ing] away from the faith" during times of difficulty and persecution. In other words, people who have spent a lifetime claiming allegiance to God will - in the face of intolerance - turn their backs on everything they have stood for with the hopes of self-preservation. For many years they have polished the outside to give the appearance of an authentic God-following, but when the heat turns up a bit the outside falls apart and the self-following inside is revealed.
But the next logical question is, Who is it that will fall away? How do I know if I will be one of those? Going back to Matthew 13 Jesus tells a parable in which a farmer plants some seeds on different types of soil. One of the seeds fell on rocky ground:
Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root (Mat. 13:5-6).Jesus goes on to explain the meaning of his parable:
The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away (Mat. 13:20-21).Here Jesus uses the same phrase as in Matthew 24:10 - "fall away". According to Jesus, these believers who receive Gods word with joy fall away because they have "no root". As soon as the heat rises (sun) they wither and fall away. So how do I know if I am a hypocrite? How do I know if I will fall away? The answer is, If I have no root.
But what does it mean to have no root? Think of it in terms of the tree below. Clearly, the quality of the tree will depend on the quality of its roots. If the tree has weak and shallow roots the heat or a strong wind will easily kill it. But if it has deep roots in good soil it will stand against anything you throw at it.
The challenge is that as humans, many times we are not rooted in God or his word but we pretend we are. We create these "fake fruit" that we show off. People look at us and think, "wow, what a great Christian". We have succeeded in polishing the outside. Our lives bear fruits in the eyes of our peers and neighbors. But truth is, the fruit is fake. Because the quality of our fruit depends on the depth of our roots we manufacture fruit in order to hide the fact that we are rooted, not in the soil of God, but in nothing.
But what exactly do these roots represent? Think of it this way. The leaves and fruit of a tree is something that can be seen by everyone. The roots are hidden away. No one can see them. In the same way our fruits may be visible, but not our roots. No one can see our roots. The root-phenomenon takes place in secret - where no one is seeing or watching. A good way to summarize this concept is this way: People may look at your life and see fruit of love for God. But do you really love God when no one is watching? When you are alone - in that place where nobody can see you or hear you - do you still love God? Who you are in private. Who you are in secret. That is who you really are. And if my secret-self and my public-self are two different people then I have just self-diagnosed my own hypocrisy.
No one captured the essence of hypocrisy better than Jesus himself. Hypocrisy is more than just being phony. Hypocrisy is hard work. Making the outside pretty while the inside is rotten takes creativity and energy. And for many, its difficult to let go of the facade and admit that their external appearance is really just a cosmetic adaptation of their real self. But no one has to live this way. Jesus gave us the solution for hypocrisy when he said:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luk. 18:9-14).