The Tired Old Sin Of Hypocrisy
Sarah Jeong is not a household name, though she has recently been in the news due to her hiring by The New York Times. However, it was not her new job that brought publicity, but rather some unfortunate meanderings from her past. Shortly after her hiring, a number of Ms. Jeong’s past statements on the popular social media outlet Twitter came to light. In them, Ms. Jeong (who is of Asian descent) lambastes “White People” and those with whom she disagrees politically in a series of tweets designed to shock and shame. When confronted, Ms. Jeong stated that they were written in the spirit of satire in order to make a point about the reasoning of her own detractors. Ignoring the outcry, The New York Times has stood by its hiring despite past stories it has run denouncing others involved in alleged racist incidents. With that said, the purpose of this article is neither to promote nor admonish Ms. Jeong; instead, it is to bring attention to a problem faced not only the New York Times, but by every man and woman: Hypocrisy.
The word hypocrisy is akin to the modern term “two-faced.” Originating in the world of theatrics, the term hypocrite once described an actor who put on a mask in order to appear as another person. Jesus used the term liberally to describe the Pharisees who stood in opposition to Him. Is was not out of jealousy that He called them hypocrites, but rather because of their “outward face” of religion, which stood in striking contrast to their worldly hearts. In one of the fieriest sermons recorded in the New Testament, Jesus used the term hypocrite six times to describe Pharisees (see Matthew 23). He sought to demonstrate the danger they posed in cheapening honor and service to God through their sinful attitudes. The Pharisees, however, did not view themselves as hypocrites; they viewed Jesus as the interloper who had come to rock their religious boat. In this, they demonstrated one of the greatest dangers posed by hypocrisy: the inability to see oneself in the wrong. What was a problem then is still a problem today.
Though it might prove painful, every Christian should take the hypocrisy test:
1. Do I expect more of others than I do of myself?
2. Do I come down on the wrongs of others harder than my own wrongs?
3. Do I make excuses about bad behaviors I retain while criticizing others with the same behaviors?
4. Do I preach love while hating others in my heart?
5. Do I treat others the way I would never want to be treated?
Honesty indicts most Christians when answering the above questions. This is why Jesus strongly warned about the danger posed by hypocrisy. With hyperbole, He stated, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye” (Luke 6:42). Thus, when Jesus warned to “judge not that you be not judged,” He was warning about the very type of judgment that majors in splinter removal, while ignoring log removal.
Upon concluding that hypocrisy is a danger, it is important to take the necessary steps to remove any vestige of hypocrisy and prevent its return. How is this done? Though the following is far from exhaustive, the ideas described will help in the area of hypocrisy prevention:
- Conversion requires a complete change of heart. It is no surprise that Jesus stated the greatest command is to love the Lord with all of one’s heart, soul, strength, and mind (Luke 10:27). It is also of no surprise that conversion is described as the death of the old man of sin (Romans 6:6). Hypocrisy is a direct result of retaining old beliefs while seeking to portray oneself as a new man in Christ.
- I am no better than anyone else. Racism, in all its ugliness, is the attempt to believe that skin pigmentation makes one better than another. Sadly, Christians can also follow similar reasoning by believing that certain sins make others worse than oneself. Sin is lawlessness; thus, all who make a practice of sinning are outlaws (I John 3:4). To make oneself feel better by believing others are much worse will easily bring on the sin of hypocrisy.
- God is the standard. Christians have neither the ability nor the right to change the standards of God. They can neither be lightened on self nor made more difficult on others. As Jesus described the Pharisees, He stated, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger” (Matthew 23:4). Sadly, this old problem still lingers.
Whether it is a national newspaper or a common man in the street, hypocrisy is a plague in every age. May every child of God maintain vigilance against the danger of this tired old sin. With humility, may each admit sin and seek to change; with love, may each seek the good of others over self. The purpose of this life should never become self-justification; instead, it should be a time of contrition that waits for the day when God will glorify those who have humbly followed Him.