The Wages of Hypocrisy

We are living in strange times my friends! I have run into three distinct views of all the turmoil that is 2020:

  • No problem, I’ve got Jesus!
  • God is up to something, just don’t know what.
  • The apocalypse is nigh! It’s the Democrats fault! It’s the Republicans fault!

Whether it’s racism, a virus, hurricanes, or any other tidal pull on society this year, most people fall in one of those groups. The only distinctive difference is that pre-Jesus followers are all in the third bucket and there is also a disturbing number of Christians in there with them.

The first two groups are absolutely Biblical. Are the people in those groups perfect in their faith? Absolutely not; there are good days and bad days but generally these people live with a true north that is always Jesus. Unfortunately, they are also trying to walk in humility by not stirring up strife. They are mostly silent outside of family and close friends. Unfortunately, their voices are drowned out by those in the 3rd group who rabidly decry the woes and faults of the world.

The third group is very loud. This group spends enormous energy thinking, emoting, and speaking on the problems we all face but with the heart-intent of blaming, accusing, and dividing the world into “us” vs “them”. They use their voice on social media, main-stream media, from platforms large and small to cry out, “INJUSTICE! And it is all THEIR fault!”

As I was praying about this issue, I asked the Lord, “What do You say?” And he pointed me to Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

He led me to read the “weeping prophet” book again. This book in the Bible refers to Jeremiah as the “weeping prophet” because most of the book is the dire warning to Israel and Judah of their destruction because they turned from God and ignored their sins. But Jeremiah was not accusing the people of God, he was not condemning them for his pain. He was in fact asking God repeatedly, “why me?” because the people, even his friends, turned on him. His anguish, his weeping wasn’t about him at all: it was about the people, his people, his beloved people either wallowing or even outlandishly boasting in their hypocrisy.

Jeremiah is considered one of the prophets foreshadowing Jesus. Jesus had a big problem with hypocrites:

Matthew 23: 23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices — mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

25 “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. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 “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 the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

Jesus warned us about the “leaven” (i.e., doctrine or religious self-righteous declarations) of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and politicians of his day. In Luke’s Gospel, this leaven is defined as hypocrisy “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” Luke 12:1

But what is hypocrisy? A little research suggests its root comes from the Greek prefix ὑπὸ (under) combined with the verb κρίνω (to judge); so from heaven’s perspective, hypocricy refers to the inability to come to a decision and exercise genuine conviction. It is a state of being “double minded”, duplicitous, and insincere. In some passages it indicated a person was playing a part, “putting on a show”; feigning righteousness, acting with insincerity, reusing “canned answers”; or repeating the party line. Hypocrisy then is a form of self-deception. It is institutionalized prejudice dressed up as religion; it is counterfeit thinking that cheats the truth; it is ethnocentric stupidity that despises others as unworthy, inferior, or as “other”. The “leaven of the Pharisees” is like old sourdough added to the fresh bread — it “puffs people up” and is therefore based on human pride.

In Jeremiah, God called out “putting on a show” in chapter 7:

4 Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!” 5 If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, 6 if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, 7 then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever. 8 But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.

We sometimes trust in words like “It’s ok, I went to church today.” Or, and this might sting, “It’s OK, I am covered by the blood of Jesus.” “It’s OK, I have no fear because Jesus will protect me.”

Those are all good, but there is a hypocrisy trap when we use the name of Jesus like a magical charm. There is a trap in looking at all our good works to justify our righteousness. It is a trap to call out the anti-Christ in another group, another political agenda different than our own and call fire down upon them, or, and this is far, far worse, say the magical incantation, “Aw, bless their souls, I will pray for them!”

But I have good news: Jesus’ heart broke for His people as Jeremiah’s did but the difference is Jeremiah could do nothing to stop the destruction of the temple while Jesus has the eternal power and grace to save the new temple; you and me!

I find myself in the third group far too often to even attempt to make excuses. I have mentally pointed my finger at just about every group you can think of at some point in 2020. I have not always represented Jesus well. I have wallowed in anger and self-pity. I have even said to no one in particular, “THAT is not WJWD!” That is not what Jesus would do! And that sounds right, it sounds true, but that is also just putting on a show. No, Jesus would heal their wounds, comfort them, listen to them, and set them free.

It is the broken heart of Jesus that led Him to drinking the cup of God’s wrath, to lay His life down for you and for me. It is a broken heart that led Jeremiah to deliver a hard message calling people to repent, to change, and alter their lives. The people didn’t take it very well back then; unsurprisingly, people today don’t take it that well either. We typically respond with “Who are you to tell me?” or an old reliable Jesus charm.

Jesus wept over people’s sin. His heart broke “because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). The ministry of Christ was a tearful ministry. The summary of His ministry is found in Hebrews, “During His earthly life, He offered prayers and appeals with loud cries and tears to the One who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence” (Hebrews 5:7). Jesus’ ministry broke his heart and cost him his life in exchange for ours.

The King of kings is full of joy, grace, and mercy and that is our inheritance. Our wholeness and reconciliation to God is what He paid for. Our faith-walk in this time is about a Father who gave His only Son, not in anger, not in condemnation, not to despise, but with a broken heart for His kids. I am a Dad and it pains me to see my family suffer, even over dumb things like soccer shoes that don’t fit right. Or getting butt aches from being in a car ride for 13 and half hours for vacation. How much more does our heavenly Dad ache for us to return our hearts and minds towards Him in this hour? How much more does He ache for us to be broken by turning from our sins? How does His heart hurt from bearing witness to so many people who self-destruct from the poisons of the world, whether it’s chemicals, our jobs, our politics, or our entertainment? And how much must it hurt to see so many people refuse His cure, Jesus Christ?

I apologize for the heavy hand, but I leave you with good news from groups 1 and 2: It really is going to be OK because Holy Spirit is in this with us and I have no doubt, not one little bit, that He is up to something that will knock all of our socks off!

Let’s pray.

Thank you God! We praise you for your salvation, Jesus! We praise you for the cross and the cup that was poured out for all our sins. We pray today then, help us not to take sin lightly, help us to treat sin as the serious thing that it is. Help us to put down the mindset that it’s no big deal in our lives. When we are tempted to sin today, Lord, help us to run from temptation, God if we sin today or when we might next sin, we ask with a sincere heart, to convict us that we might feel sorrow, Godly sorrow over that sin, hate it and want to run from it all the more.

But also God we thank You that we do not sit in condemnation but instead we are covered in Your renewed mercy every day. We thank You that Jesus took all the wrath and in Your conviction You are simply helping us to not stick deadly metal things in the electrical outlets of the world because the power might kill us.

Jesus, help us to be united in You and to put away the division of the world. Help us to navigate the complexity of social issues like racial injustice, poverty, and disease. Help us to take the log out of own eyes, to lay down our own hypocrisy, that we may take up your cause to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in Your great name, to heal the sick, and cast out demons.

We praise You and we thank You, and we take this communion to remind us of who You are and who we are in You.

In Jesus name,