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Are Christians Really All Hypocrites?

Carola is a Christian writer and author of several books. She writes about Christian living, relationships, and other related topics.

Hypocrisy is people presenting themselves one way while being another way. This state could be:

  • A pastor preaching marital fidelity while cheating on his wife
  • A financial officer who appears trustworthy but is embezzling money
  • A person who appears to be loving and caring on the surface but is a busybody and gossip behind people’s backs
  • An individual who lies to look good in front of people by bragging about how rich and successful they are
  • They condemn others for sins that they themselves are committing

The word hypocrite comes from the Greek in reference to acting on a stage. It has come to mean “acting a part,” such as putting on a mask and pretending to be someone else. Hypocrites are known for not practicing what they preach. They may appear righteous and caring on the surface, but they are evil and corrupt underneath the facade.

How Jesus Defined Hypocrisy

Jesus had a lot to say about the hypocrisy shown by the Pharisees and teachers of the law of His time. Here are the main characteristics He condemned:

They Look Good on the Outside But Not On the Inside

The Pharisees and teachers of the law put on a good show as godly people but are corrupt underneath their facade. They work hard on their external image but do not deal with the self-indulgence and greed that fills their hearts.

Jesus likened them to people who clean the outside of a cup but do not deal with the corruption inside it (Matthew 23:25). He also compared the Pharisees to whitewashed tombs that look beautiful outside but are full of dead people’s bones and unclean things (Matthew 23:27).

Vanity and Pride

These people are vain and full of pride underneath the veneer of righteousness. They think they are better than others. One example is demonstrated in the parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14). When they prayed, the Pharisee arrogantly thanked God that he was not an evildoer like the tax collector.

The Pharisees honor God with their mouth but do not practice what they preach. They put on a show of righteousness by building tombs for the prophets and decorating the graves of righteous people, but their hearts are far from God (Matthew 23:29).

They Break God's Law and Make Their Own Rules

The Pharisees claimed to be righteous and follow God's law. Instead, they created rules of their own that broke God's law. For example, the Pharisees claim to obey the commandment to honor their fathers and mothers and that offspring should provide things to help their parents.

Then the Pharisees claim parents should not be honored with helpful provisions because those things should be devoted to God (Matthew 15:1-9). The Pharisees break their own rules, such as giving their ox or donkeys water on the Sabbath (Luke 12:56).

They Helped People to Look Good in the Eyes of Others

When the Pharisees gave to the needy, they appeared to be generous and caring. However, they trumpeted their giving to the world so that they would be honored by others, not because they really cared about them (Matthew 6:2). The Pharisees loved to make their prayers a public show in the synagogues and on the street, where everyone could see them.

They Judged Others Harshly

They told individuals to take the specks out of their eyes when they carried planks in their own (Matthew 7:4-6, Luke 6:42).

Their Actions Turn People Off Religion

The Pharisees and teachers of the law claim to be ideal examples of godly people, but their ways shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. They prevented people from entering it (Matthew 23:13).

Clearly, Jesus hates hypocrisy in all its forms. Jesus encouraged His people to seek the truth and described himself as the way and the truth and the life ((John 14:6). God put lying on God's list of seven things He hates.

So, Are Christians Really All Hypocrites?

Yes, Christians can be hypocrites at times. Human beings are weak and make stupid mistakes. They fail to do the right thing. They often want to ignore and cover up their sins, making them hypocrites. They tell people not to do the same things that they themselves are doing.

The apostle Paul talked about his own challenges while trying to live the Christian life honestly. Paul described his struggle with his human weakness. He wants to do the right thing but does not do it because of his sinful nature (Romans 7:14-24).

If individuals genuinely want to follow Christ, they must acknowledge their sins, confess them to God, and repent. They often mess things up and need the forgiveness and grace of God to continue.

I look at hypocrisy as being in two categories: Intentional and unintentional. The Pharisees are intentionally hypocritical to cover up their corrupt evil natures. They also did it to inflate their egos, make other people look up to them, control others, and feed their self-righteousness. On the other hand, Christians often do not intentionally set out to be two-faced. Even if they planned hypocritical behavior to cover their sins, they often realized what they were doing was wrong and repented.

Characteristics of Christians Who Are Not Hypocrites

There are many Christians who are striving to follow God and be transparent. They can be recognized by the following characteristics:

  • Are open and honest about who they are
  • Are genuinely trying to live their lives by biblical standards
  • Truly show love to others
  • Are willing to admit when they are wrong
  • Accept constructive criticism and will change when needed
  • Practice what they preach most of the time
  • Are respected by others
  • Are not judgmental and condemning
  • Show humility in their words and actions
  • Do good to others in secret
  • Do not seek approval or accolades from others
  • Have a good reputation in the community as being generous and trustworthy

There are indeed hypocrites in every church, but in this case, a few bad apples do not spoil the bunch. The time will come when their duplicity will be exposed for what it is. It is unrealistic to expect Christians to be perfect. Everyone has sinned and fallen short because of their human weaknesses and carnal natures (Romans 3:22-24).

Instead of asking whether all Christians are hypocrites, we should look at their fruits and ask: “Are they recognizing and dealing with their failings?” “Are they willing to listen to constructive criticism and change? The chances are that the answer is “yes.” They are not being hypocrites. They are just weak human beings who need God in their lives to make things right.

References:

The Holy Bible, New International Version
Engaging Christian Spirituality - Isn't the Church Full of Hypocrites, City View, The Rev. Dan Alger
American Christianity Has a Hypocrisy Problem, Christians for Social Action, Stephen Matton
Why are Christians such hypocrites? Christianity Explored, Kevin Croft, Hope Church Vauxhall
What Does the Bible Say about Hypocrisy, and Are Christians Hypocrites? biblestudytools.com, Mike Leake

© 2022 Carola Finch

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