Hypocrisy Abounds

Matthew 15:7–9 (ESV)

“You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: This people 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.”

This quote from Jesus towards the Pharisees and scribes comes from Isaiah 29:13 regarding God’s judgment towards Jerusalem. Notice Jesus was letting them know that Isaiah was talking about them as well and not merely using this verse to describe their behavior. This would have probably been especially alarming considering the regard they held for Isaiah. Jesus called them hypocrites because their actions are merely external and do not come from their hearts, and their teachings are not from God but reflect human tradition (Matthew 15: 2–3).

What can we learn from this?

For starters, let’s consider a 2015 research study that said a whopping 83% of Americans identify themselves as Christians. Hopefully, you are shaking your head like I did when I read that. If that large of a majority of our population is Christian, why is there so much division, violence, and all-out hatred in this country? Are these behaviors Jesus would endorse? Does our talk match our walk? Obviously being a Christian means different things to different people (see previous posts regarding postmodernism and relativism).

All throughout Scripture—if only more of these 83% would embrace it—we find multiple examples of what it means to be a Christian. Consider character. Character can be described in Christian terms as living a sanctified life or living a holy life that honors God. Character is your behavior when no one else is around. As reputation is how others see you, character is how God sees you. The Reverend D.L. Moody once said, “If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself.”

But having a Christian character is a choice. We who profess to read our Bibles should know what God requires of us—yet we often freely choose to disobey. John 5:39-40 is an excellent couple of verses to bring up to a lost Jehovah’s Witness, but it also has bearing on those who profess to be a Christian or worse yet, a Bible-knowing Christian, and show no evidence of a transformed life: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “The only way in which the hypocrite can play the hypocrite at all is by forgetting the existence of God. Let us, therefore, recollect it—wherever I am, upon my bed or in my secret chamber, God is there. There is not a secret word I speak in the ear of a friend but God hears it. Do I seek out the most private part of the city for the commission of sin—God is there. Do I choose the shadow of night to cover my iniquity?—He is there looking upon me.”

Our Christian witness to a non-believing world is mostly presented by the way we silently carry ourselves. Live a hypocritical life and your ability to bear witness for Jesus is irreparably damaged. Continue in hypocrisy and you will surely count the eternal cost.