“You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.” Matthew 23:36
Hypocrisy is the practice of professing beliefs, feelings or virtues that one does not deeply hold or possess. A hypocrite is one who puts on a mask and feigns himself to be what he is not. Nobody wants to be called a hypocrite, especially if the word and the shoe fits. We all know what it is like to be the hypocrite. Sometimes we say and do things we really don’t believe, or we pretend to feel things we really don’t. Contemporary author Erwin McManus said, “In a sense, in a reality, every one of us is transitioning away from hypocrisy.” It is true. Every one of us as followers of Christ are transitioning from untruth to Truth, from faithlessness to faithfulness, and we are works in progress. The deadly aspect of hypocrisy is if we know what we are not doing is not the same as what we are saying. This can be a real problem. We live by very a high standard, and we make bold claims following this pure and majestic God of ours. If people are not tied into a faith relationship with God or a faith community, and they are wondering what is going on inside of a church, and they know the kind of standards that Christians profess, their assumption is that we are kidding ourselves. We are hypocrites.
Hypocrisy has a very dramatic effect on our personal and corporate worship. There are certain things that war against this privilege to worship God. The very nature of the word war is to completely demolish your opponent, or at least, to completely dominate them. There are things that want to demolish worship for you and I. We have talked about preferences and styles of worship, and rivals and competitors to our hearts thus far in this series. Today we will look at how hypocrisy wars against and affects our position of worship before God.
Let us review what worship is for a moment. William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1942-1944, said:
“Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness, the nourishment of mind with His truth, the purifying of the imagination by His beauty, the opening of the heart by His love, the surrender of the will to His purpose, and all this is gathered up in adoration to the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable, and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centredness which is the original sin and the source of actual sin.”
This a pretty profound definition. In Romans 12 Paul says basically the same thing, except more concise. Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” We have to make a decision to offer God every element of ourselves on every layer of every level, 24/7, 365 days of the year. The greatest gift God has ever given to us is Himself. The greatest gift we can give back to God is not our money or a few hours of our time–it is ourselves! He gave Himself to us, and we must give ourselves completely over to Him. It is a process and a wonderful dance and journey. 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” This is the deadly nature of hypocrisy. We look at what is going on outside, at what a person seems to be. He seems to be truthful, to have an ironclad marriage, he seems to be happy. But we don’t have as much information as God. In Luke 16:15 Jesus said, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” Not everything man values is detestable to God, but the way man measures is detestable because God has the advantage of knowing our hearts. In Luke 12:1-3 Jesus says, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed upon the housetops.” What a challenge for us to live Godly lives to the best of our abilities as jars of clay and as frail and broken human beings! God is instructing us to be honest with Him. He knows everything anyway. Don’t fool others and don’t fool yourselves. In Isaiah 29:13 the Lord says, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” Your words and your hearts need to say the same thing about you. God is well aware when they don’t match up. He knows when you are just playing by the rules and offering Him nothing more than lip service.
You might be a hypocrite if you forget who you are. By befriending Christ and accepting Him and His sacrifice, we achieve a status that is breathtaking. We are sons and daughters of God born through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, empowered and made alive through the resurrection and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We cannot forget this status or how we got there. Jesus told the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14. The pharisee is professionally religious and the tax collector is nobody’s friend. The pharisee stood up and prayed about himself. If we forget who we are and how we got there, we can feel pretty good about our morality and we can begin to look at people who are not as spiritually as far down the journey as we are and thank God that we are not them. As Christians, we got to where we are at today by the aid and assistance of Christ–not by our own sweat and blood. The tax collector, on the other hand, stood at a distance. He would not even look up at heaven. He beat his breast and begged for God’s mercy as a humble sinner. We cannot make too much of ourselves. We are all sinners saved by grace who deserve hell. We are all in the process of being made more like Christ. Paul mandated that we help others who come along and not judge them and beat them to death with our morality. Luke 18:14 says, “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Examine who you really are before our Almighty God.
You might be a hypocrite if you spend far more time on the outside of your life than on matters of the heart. God looks at the heart while man looks at the exterior. We live in a very exterior-oriented culture. All you need to do is pick up a pop culture magazine to discover it isn’t discussing character or virtue issues. We are encouraged to read about extramarital affairs, oversized mansions, fancy cars and airbrushed figures–all external things. We are not immune to examining our own appearance and the appearances of others. If we are far more concerned on how we look on the outside, the titles that we hold, or perfect church attendance, we will soon discover that they are not enough. God looks at our hearts, and we worship from our hearts. We have nothing else to lift up to Him but our hearts! It is our hearts that lead our actions. In Luke 11:39-41 Jesus said, “Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also?” God is so hungry to dwell on your inside! He wants to remodel and expand. He wants to treat you to something you can’t achieve on your own. You can get the right haircut and buy the right car all on your own. God wants access to our hearts–the very dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” The heart is the source of our worship.
You might be a hypocrite if you major in religious minors rather than spiritual maturity. Following Christ can be complicated. Becoming a Christian is breathtakingly easy. Offering ourselves to Christ is easy, but the walk is difficult. Moving deeper and deeper into the heart of God takes intentionality. What happens sometimes is that we find something along the road. All of a sudden this thing becomes everything and we major in it. Maybe it is not a major item. Maybe it is a minor item. We are to major in Christ and being like Him–not anything else. The rest will fall into line like an engine pulling the train. Luke 11:42 says, “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.” We can’t let our garden herbs get in the way of pursuing the things of God. We cannot miss the love of God by being so disciplined and focused on side matters. We should thank God for all of incidentals in our lives, but we also need to thank God for being God. These side matters we get hung up on can demolish our personal worship.
We might be hypocrites if we have a passion for status rather than service to God and man. It is our nature to be noticed–and for some more than others. Who doesn’t want someone to come up and give encouragement, say well done, or to ask whether we are okay? When it goes deeper and we need to be noticed, we want people to fawn over us, we insist people hold to our positions, we desire for others to know all of the things we do for God, and/or we seek accolades when we walk into a worship center, than we have a problem. It sounds ridiculous, but it is part of our human nature to want recognition. In Luke 11:43 Jesus says, “”Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it.” The Pharisees needed their special greetings and seatings in the marketplaces. We need to tell people the author of that thing they found significant in us. Don’t be the unmarked grave that men walk over without knowing it! No one is an expert in God, not the pharisees of yesterday or the religious leaders of today. A expert is someone who can give you any element of the source of their expertise and explain what it is and how it works. Religious leaders follow after God just as the rest of us Christians do. Our God looks for accuracy, honesty and transparency. He is looking for people who will worship Him from this position. Jesus once told a very fallen woman at a well that one day people will worship in spirit and in truth and it won’t matter where they worship. They will worship from a clean, reborn spirit that openly surrenders everything to Him.
Hypocrisy is actually a massive lack of faith. It clings to selfishness instead of giving everything over to God. Don’t put on a persona. The root word for hypocrite means actor. It was a compliment in early Greece if someone said you were a good actor. It is not a compliment, however, in the realm of worship. Right now, wherever you are at reading this blog, say a prayer. Ask God to search your heart. He already knows what is in it, but maybe you need a better understanding of it. Be transparent before God. We all need God’s help, and we should thank Him for the help He has already given to us. Bow your head, close your eyes, and let the Great Physician walk you through your own heart. Ask God to help you make what you say with your lips to be in synch with how you live your life. Let God minister to you if you have forgotten who you are and what it cost God for you to get there. Ask God to forgive you if you are lording who you are today over other people. Ask God to help you to stop majoring on the outside, on the exterior. Ask God to help you put your heart forefront and let the inside of the cup be cleaned as well. Ask God to relinquish your passion for status and recognition. Let God help you lift Him up and to let your enemies be scattered. May the Lord return you to place of worship that is thunderous and powerful today!