One of the most common criticisms of the Christian church is “it’s full of hypocrites.” Duh! I want to ask people making that statement, “Have you taken a good look at the world around you lately? The world is filled with hypocrites. Why should the Church be any different?”
Certainly we indulge in hypocrisy when our actions don’t equate with our high-sounding words. In fact, the root of the word means to play a part or to wear a mask. If you’re fond of the saying, “Do as I say, not as I do,” chances are you’re quite adept at hypocrisy.
We show how hypocritical we can be when we pleasantly greet people, only to sneer at them or talk about them as soon as they’re beyond the sound of our voice. Or when we drive to a friend’s home for a dinner party, arguing with our spouse the entire way, but the moment we step out of the car we’re all smiles, as if we’ve just been selected happiest couple of the year.
The news media go on lengthy, holier-than-thou diatribes about prominent people caught uttering offensive comments, such as Donald Sterling, the mean-spirited, loose-lipped former owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers, or other public figures. Generally such attention is warranted. But I wonder how many of those same news people, if a tape recorder had been available at some critical time in their past, could be revealed as guilty of making similar statements or even worse (maybe more than once)?
Hypocrisy seems especially abundant in that great bastion of self-righteousness known as Hollywood. Every so often we see or read about movie stars and entertainers speaking out on behalf of the poor and needy around the world, some oppressed group of people, the disease-of-the-month, or some other noble cause. Then we read about some of these same celebrities spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions, on lavish, self-indulgent events to entertain fellow rich people. Seems to me if they were so concerned about the cause célèbre, their money could be put to better use than wasting it on themselves.
Then we have the content of TV programming and movies the Hollywood elite foist on the public, all in the name of “entertainment.” Violent crime shows and films with body counts that challenge even the most sophisticated calculator. Salacious comedies and dramas that demean the virtues of genuine love, treating sex as casually as a handshake and of no more social or emotional consequence than a quick trip to the restroom. Even hyper-violent video games that make mayhem look like tons of fun.
These are for entertainment only, the Hollywood honchos argue. Everyone knows they’re not real, they insist. So these perverted, mind-numbing productions have absolutely no impact on the fragile and formative psyches of younger viewers. They deny any culpability when a deranged individual with a history of wallowing in such material carries out horrendous acts of one form or another, similar to those witnessed on the screen.
Funny thing is, many of these same film studios create TV commercials costing millions to air, along with advertising to promote their uber-violent, super-sexed movies. These commercials have powerful persuasive influence on the consuming public (justifying the high cost of producing and presenting them), but the “entertainment,” we’re told, does not. How exactly does that work?
During His earthly ministry, Jesus Christ often addressed hypocrisy. In fact, at times He confronted it directly. In Matthew 23, Jesus used the term “hypocrites” repeatedly, denouncing the religious and community leaders for their overt displays of piety while concealing their deceitful inner motives:
“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…. You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness” (Matthew 23:25-28).
Wow! Jesus obviously wasn’t taking a page from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.
Concluding hypocrisy is a universal human trait, do we just shrug our shoulders and offer the excuse, “I can’t help it. That’s just the way I am”? Not at all. In fact, the Bible instructs us to be intentional in rejecting this sin by pursuing a changed heart and changed mind.
The apostle Peter exhorted followers of Jesus, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:1-2).
Another apostle, Paul, offered similar sentiments when he wrote, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
Proverbs 23:7 states, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” So a key for overcoming our seemingly natural hypocritical tendencies is to “reprogram” our thinking and concentrate on things good and uplifting, not the cerebral garbage our minds are bombarded with every day.
As for those that complain about hypocrisy within the institutional Church, I would say, “Come join us – you’ll fit right in."
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.