Do you practice what you preach?
Paul then confronts these Jews with very pointed questions. “If you teach others, why don’t you teach yourself? You tell others not to steal, but do you steal? You say it is wrong to commit adultery, but do you commit adultery? You condemn idolatry, but do you use items stolen from pagan temples?” What a call out!? What I would have paid to see their reactions! These men and women knew the law, they knew what God wanted from them in their lives, but instead of doing it, they merely talked about it. They talked a good game, but they didn’t walk it.
What a tragedy. They nibbled around the edges, but never digested the bread of life. They wetted their lips on the living water, but never experienced real life. That’s no way to live!
If we’re honest, as we read Paul’s indictment of the Jews here, we will see ourselves, because we’re all prone to hypocrisy. We all easily fall into the trap of trying to impress others with how spiritual we are, while our hearts are far from God. So we need to apply these verses carefully to our own hearts! Paul shows three ways that the hypocrite is deceived:
THE HYPOCRITE IS DECEIVED BECAUSE HE KNOWS GOD’S COMMANDMENTS, BUT DOES NOT OBEY THEM ON THE HEART LEVEL.
It’s good to rely on God’s Law, if you truly obey it. It’s good to know His will and be morally discerning. The problem was that the Jews relied on the fact that they had received God’s Law as if it would magically protect them, even though they didn’t obey it. They got so wrapped up in their appearance. They wanted to look the part. So while they obeyed the commandments, they focused on the ones where others could see them. Hypocrisy is all about maintaining outward appearances, with no regard to obedience from the heart.
THE HYPOCRITE IS DECEIVED BECAUSE HE BOASTS IN GOD, NOT TO HONOR GOD, BUT TO HONOR HIMSELF.
So boasting in the Lord is good, if our aim is to give Him all glory for our salvation. But Paul’s Jewish readers were boasting in God in the sense of elevating themselves above the pagan Gentiles, who did not know God. It was a form of spiritual pride, where they said, “We know the only true God, but you don’t! We’re better than you are!”
That kind of reminds me of when I would go visit friends at CBC when people would find out I was from Evangel. I can’t tell you how many times people would come up to me and tell me that they would pray for me, that I would see the truth. I would get angry, but then, when a good friend of mine decided to transfer to Missouri State from Evangel, I was certain he was going to hell in a hand basket! He obviously did not love God as much as I did! While at the same time I was living a secret life behind closed doors, which showed how little I did love God.
THE HYPOCRITE IS DECEIVED BECAUSE HE CONFIDENTLY TEACHES OTHERS, BUT DOES NOT APPLY THE WORD TO THEM.
Everyone who teaches God’s Word must first apply it to himself. Knowledge without obedience puffs us up with pride (1 Cor. 8:1), which is the root of hypocrisy. Spiritually proud hypocrites who have a lot of knowledge without obedience look down on the blind, foolish, and immature that they teach. But when you apply the truth to yourself first, it humbles you as you realize where you’ve come from and how much you still need to grow. You realize that if God had not graciously shed His light on you, you’d still be in the dark, too!
I don’t know why Paul picked these three sins specifically, as you can read commentary after commentary and get a ton of different reasons why. He may have been picking especially shocking sins as examples to argue that the Jews did not keep the Law they possessed and taught (Schreiner 133-134). He could be saying that although not all Jews did these things, the fact that some do them illustrates that having the Law and teaching it does not spare you from God’s judgment if you don’t practice it. The implication, then, would be, “Maybe you don’t do these sins, but do you keep the whole law? Are you without sin?”
So what are the results if we live in this Hypocrisy Syndrome?
The Results from The Hypocrisy Syndrome
It damages unbelievers
I believe one of the biggest reasons why people do not come to know Christ is the inauthenticity of those who claim to be Christ followers. Because they do not allow themselves to display the realness they experience in their everyday, ordinary lives, people watch them, and see them for the fakes they are.
The point is, if we tell others that we’re Christians, but we’re living in disobedience to God, unbelievers will mock the Christian faith. If a professing Christian is dishonest in business or immoral in his personal life or abusive towards his family, the world concludes, “Why follow their God? Who needs that kind of life?
It dishonors God
The main reason we should want to obey God is not to be blessed, but rather, to honor Him. The main reason we should fear disobedience is that God’s holy name would be dishonored. He is infinitely worthy of all honor and glory and praise. So we should fear the sin of hypocrisy, of putting a veneer of godliness over disobedient hearts, because we do not want to dishonor the all-glorious God who saved us for His glory.
So how can you break free from the Hypocrisy Syndrome? First, you have to be real. Be honest and humble towards other, but also be honest and humble to yourself. Second, maintain that reality with God. Meet with Him in the Word and in prayer, not to check off that you did your “quiet time,” but to come before Him and expose everything in your heart to Him. Confess your sins and your struggles. Seek His strength. Let Him examine your heart. Finally, when you read the Bible, see how you can aim it at yourself.
Don’t let the sin of hypocrisy deceive you, damage unbelievers, or dishonor our glorious God!
BREAK FREE FROM THE HYPOCRISY SYNDROME!