Musings on hypocrisy

“The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” The person who said those words also confessed to: “”boasting, the inflating of the truth, the pretence of being an intellectual, the impatience with people, and all the times I drank to excess”? Brennan Manning died in 2013. Was he a hypocrite? No. A hypocrite is someone who will not acknowledge they are a sinner. Manning knew who he was. “”Don’t think I’m a saint. I’m a ragamuffin, you’re a ragamuffin, and God loves us anyway.” (The Ragamuffin Gospel)

In our next verses Jesus is quoting Isaiah 29:13 which reveals how the main focus for God is our heart, not the outward person we display.

“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules!” (Matthew 15 v 7-9)

Just because people have rules for living and whose behaviour is apparently ‘cleaner’ than most does not mean they are more acceptable to God than those who have no rules. A human rule will not bring you closer to God. Neither will the rules of God, the law of God, it doesn’t bring you closer it actually reveals how far away from Him you are, it distances you.

Just because people are doing what has always been done, it has been passed down generationally, it has become cultural norms and laws, does not mean they were right in the first place. Traditions of men are often a variant of the commands of God. Variants are burdensome, the commands are light. In a particular church the members would always bow the knee and cross themselves before a white wall shortly after taking communion at the altar. A visitor on noticing this asked why they did it and no one could tell him. No one knew why they did it, they just did; they had always done it. One night there was a torrential storm and the rain came through the church roof and leaked all over the white wall causing the paint to peal. The members of the church decided they would fix the wall. As they started to take the paint off they exposed a mural of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Suddenly they all realised that down through the generations when they had all lost the reason for doing so the practice continued even though it had zero meaning. They had carried on the practice but had lost the heart of the practice.

Having traditions but not knowing why doesn’t make you a hypocrite.

A hypocrite is a person who purposely deceives others. They appear right, all the while they hide or deflect the reality of their wrongness. They deny the invitation of grace because they deny their own sinfulness to either themselves or their world. The moment we deflect our own wrong in order to expose the wrong in others is when we become a hypocrite.

There are 4 leaders: Steve, Geoff, Mary and Margaret. Here is the story and on reading it you may find it a mental test and it so often is!

Steve calls me to tell me the following:

Geoff had called Steve about how Mary had called Margaret about some sensitive information that should never have been passed on.

Geoff knows this because Margaret had called Geoff to tell her.

Steve told me that Mary must be careful for she should never have called Margaret.

Now what Steve didn’t know and what I told him was I had already called Margaret regarding the same sensitive information because in my position I had the authority to do so. In that call Margaret had told me that it was Geoff who had called Margaret about the sensitive information and it was then that Margaret told Geoff that Mary had got there first and told her the information.   

Now see the italics again. The italic sentences were switched around to make Geoff look innocent. Mary was wrong and so was Geoff but he had hidden his wrongdoing to simply expose Mary’s.

This is hypocrisy. The centre, the very heart of the matter was changed, ever so slightly, but it radically changed the story and exposed one sinner whilst hiding the other.

When there are prayers, worship and teachings but the heart is twisted then there is hypocrisy.

The more self-aware we become, the more we expose our own sinfulness then the less danger we are in of being hypocrites.

A self-aware sinner never points fingers without pointing at their own life.

A hypocrite only points fingers in one direction, away from their own heart.

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