The Hypocrisy Syndrome (Final Part)

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:


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.


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.


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!



The Hypocrisy Syndrome (Part 2)

Romans 2:17-24 (NLT)

17 You who call yourselves Jews are relying on God’s law, and you boast about your special relationship with him. 18 You know what he wants; you know what is right because you have been taught his law. 19 You are convinced that you are a guide for the blind and a light for people who are lost in darkness. 20 You think you can instruct the ignorant and teach children the ways of God. For you are certain that God’s law gives you complete knowledge and truth.

21 Well then, if you teach others, why don’t you teach yourself? You tell others not to steal, but do you steal? 22 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? 23 You are so proud of knowing the law, but you dishonor God by breaking it. 24 No wonder the Scriptures say, “The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you.”

What is Paul saying here?

            So what is Paul saying here? In the first sixteen verses of chapter two, he shows how outwardly moral people have violated their own standards and thus are guilty before God. In doing so, he quietly sneaks up on the Jews, who prided themselves on their special standing before God. But he doesn’t mention them by name until verse seventeen. Up to this point, they have nodded in approval as Paul indicts the Gentiles.  “Oh Yeah Paul! Preach it!” But now, he springs the trap on them. He reminds them of their identity.  Who they are!  However, their responsibilities are greater because of what they know and who they are.

            The Jews will not escape God’s righteous judgment because they were Jews and possessed the Law, unless they obeyed the Law, which they did not do. So he exposes their hypocrisy and shows the spiritual devastation of The Hypocrisy Syndrome!

Hypocrisy deceives the hypocrite, damages unbelievers, and dishonors God.

 These Jews had advantages that others in Rome did not have.  Because of their education, and the religious knowledge they possessed they were steps beyond others, or at least they were supposed to be.  They were able to rely on the law, and boast in God, which resulted in knowing God’s will.  Because of this, Jews must minister to the Gentiles. The Jewish conviction that they were to exercise a priestly ministry to the Gentiles was correct.

The tragedy in this passage is that these Jews studied the scriptures, but they missed the point. The tragedy in my life is that I had missed the point. I loved hearing people tell my parents what a great kid they had.  I loved people thinking I was some great Christian. But the Jews in Rome were missing it.  I was missing it.

I knew what to say. I could teach a Sunday school lesson at the age of 5.  I had all the head knowledge anyone could ever ask for.  These Jews, they had the head knowledge.  They knew how to teach about the law, but what was their life reflecting?  What was my life reflecting?

Part 3 (Coming Soon)

The Hypocrisy Syndrome (Part 1)

I grew up in the church.  If the apostle Paul was the Pharisee of Pharisees then I was the AGee of the AGees.  Before we moved to Africa, I was the picture of what a good Christian boy should be.  I had all kinds of patches on my Straight Arrow vest.  I even got Buckaroo of the month once.  I could recite Scripture after Scripture.  I could beat everyone but my brother in Bible trivia.  I had the look.  I knew when to raise my hands during worship.  I knew how to tell a testimony that would make the entire congregation cry.  I had it all.  Then I didn’t.

            My junior year of high school I got expelled for a whole list of accusations which ultimately were untrue.  I couldn’t prove my innocence though, so I was forced to come back to the states with my family, live in a tiny two bedroom apartment, and go to a counselor for 6 months in Akron, Ohio.  One of the big things my counselor made as a requirement was to be in church every time the doors were open.  I had known a single missionary in Kenya, and his dad pastored a church in Akron, and his best friend from college was the youth pastor, so it was clear that was where I should go.

            The first time I stepped into the youth service, my Hypocrisy Syndrome came out in full force.  I looked up on stage and the guy playing guitar on the worship band had super long hair, earrings and tattoos.  I looked around and I saw tons of guys wearing hats in the sanctuary.  I thought to myself, “Shawn, this youth group is so blessed to have you in it.  You are going to be such a positive influence on it.  The youth pastor is probably so glad a great kid like you is in here.”

            Later on in that service, just like we do every Wednesday night, everyone got into different prayer groups.  So some guys invited me to be a part of theirs, and wouldn’t you know it, the heavy metal guitar guy is in my prayer group…AND THEY ASKED HIM TO PRAY!!!  I thought, “Well, this should be interesting.  Don’t they know that they got a guy sitting right here that could bring the house down?  And they’re gonna have this tatted up dude pray?”  Then he prayed.  I heard a passion in his prayer.  I heard brokenness in his prayer.  I heard something different in his prayer.  And I sat there that night and realized something:

I wasn’t a Christian I was a hypocrite.

            I looked the part.  I knew the law.  But I didn’t have what all these other students had.  I had no joy.  I had no hope. I knew I had to change.

This Hypocrisy Syndrome is what Jesus accused the Pharisees of doing when He said, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5: 39– 40). Jesus seemed to be saying to me, “You still seek knowledge of good and evil, as if somehow you’ll reach God. But what you need is me! I am the bread of life, the tree of life, and the living water! Ingest me!”

Part 2-coming soon

Book Review: Gray Matters: Navigating the Space between Legalism & Liberty by Brett McCracken

The gray areas of the Christian faith continue to cause frustration and controversy in every church and faith body today.  How should a Christ follower, one seeking to become like Christ in true discipleship, take in culture?  Especially in those areas which either do not receive coverage in the Bible because they did not exist at the time or in the case of alcohol and food, the message sometimes causes confusion.  Where does the line between legalism and liberty exist? Brett McCracken seeks to find that answer in his book Gray Matters: Navigating the Space between Legalism & Liberty.  He writes to help one think about how a healthy consumption of culture honors God, enriches the Christian’s life, strengthens community, and advances the Christian mission (McCracken 14).  He accomplishes this by tackling four key “gray areas” which exist for a Christian today: food, music, movies, and alcohol.

            Within those four areas he highlights five themes.  First, he argues to best consume culture  in a way which pleases God, a Christ follower should partake of all these areas within a community.  Thus consuming it with others best serves the disciple in all aspects and becomes an act of worship.  One enjoys food much more when partaking of a great meal with friends, rather than eating alone.  The intrinsic value of listening to an album or watching a movie increases when done with others.  At this point discussion of the music or movie happens.  Not only the appreciation of the art takes place but one also consumes it in a way which results in greater community.  While he does not argue against the use of alcohol, he strongly urges against the use of alcohol outside of community. 

            He encourages thoughtful consumption of these areas.  Eating food can become an act of worship when done this way.  When eating this way one tastes the food, thinks about where it came from, and this results in enjoyment of the meal.  The same can be said of alcohol. Should one drink, he or she must ask themselves, “Why am I drinking?”  If ones does so to get drunk, that obviously goes against biblical principles.  However, further still, to do so in an act of rebellion or to prove to others how anti-legalistic one is, this too does not display an attitude of becoming like Christ.

            Out of the above, a final theme of McCracken’s comes through.  He argues that critical thinking about these areas honors and worship God.  Instead of simply giving answers and providing the reader with a list of do’s and don’ts, McCracken skillfully provides the reader time to digest and think about the Christian way to consume culture.

            Ultimately, Christians must engage culture.  They should not always go to the extreme response. One generation pushes the pendulum to legalism and the next liberty.  Can there not be a middle ground?  Yes there can.  It happens when the Christian sees culture for what it is: God’s creation to enjoy and consume thoughtfully as an act of worship.  Food becomes more than fuel or something to do.  One will no longer separate music with the border between secular and Christian.  One can watch movies regardless of their rating.  Unless one lives in a community which strictly bans the use of alcohol, one may even drink a glass of wine.  By consuming culture in this thoughtful way, the pendulum stops. In this book, McCracken’s voice represents the pendulum on cultural engagement stopping. If the Church heeds his advice, it will thrive in the midst of the tension between enjoying liberty and pursuing Christlikeness