“The church is full of hypocrites” is the cry of many who have been disappointed by the church, never wanting to return. It is also a statement made by critics of Christianity who throw unwarranted jabs at the church. Before we come to a decision about whether the pews are overflowing with insincere people who are two-faced, let us first define hypocrisy.
What Is Hypocrisy?
The word hypocrisy originated in the Greek language as a theatrical term. One actor often played multiple rolls in the same play by disguising himself with a series of masks. The actor was called a “hypocrite” because he had two or more faces. The idea of a person being “two-faced” evolved, describing someone who said one thing and did another.
Hypocrisy is a front – it is a person who pretends to be more righteous than he is. A hypocrite lives a lie; he tries to make the outside appear better than the inside. It involves deception, dishonesty, and trickery by a person that is a fraud or a con. Why does the hypocrite live his life as a charade? He seeks praise and approval from others or has a desire to be well-liked.
Is Hypocrisy Serious?
Yes! When the deception of a hypocrite is exposed, many people are hurt, disappointed, and disheartened. There are a large number of people in the world who want nothing to do with God, Jesus, or the church because they have been deceived or misled by Christians. A hypocrite not only can cause the loss of his own trustworthiness but the integrity of others he associates himself with is at stake (i.e. church).
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” (Mohandas Gandhi) Gandhi rejected Christianity partly because he suffered at the hands of ruthless people calling themselves Christians. Hypocrisy can cause painful damage and the effects of it can last a long time.
Jesus took a stern position with regards to the sin of hypocrisy (Matthew 23. The teachers of the law and Pharisees appeared holy, religious, devout, and beautiful on the outside, but inside there was the greatest measure of corruption. Those who would have others believe that they are passionate for the commands of God are those whom Jesus refers to as being full of hypocrisy.
27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! 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. 28 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 23:27-28)
Are All Preachers Hypocrites?
Like any other sin, there are preachers who fall into the sin of hypocrisy. Pastors are often singled out as being the most hypocritical of all people, “practice what you preach”. Undoubtedly there is no preacher who practices perfectly what he preaches. We must keep in mind that a pastor has been called by God to preach the truth from the Word of God. If he could only preach on the subjects he has mastered, he would have very little to preach about. When a pastor is delivering a sermon, he is proclaiming the Word of God, and it is directed to not only the congregation, but to himself as well.
Is The Church Full of Hypocrites?
“It’s nice to know that God has rounded up all the hypocrites and put them in church buildings — at least on Sunday mornings — so that all the people in the world who have pristine motives and clear consciences don’t have to put up with them.” (John Roberts)
What are the reasons behind the accusation?
The words “sinner” and “hypocrite” are frequently confused. A person will observe a Christian sinning, and then label him a hypocrite. The assumption is that a person who claims to be a Christian never sins, “Christians aren’t supposed to sin; don’t they claim to be perfect?” In reality, the church is full of sinners. In his letter to Timothy, Paul wrote, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:15-16)
For a Christian to be a Christian, he/she must first be a sinner, recognize sin, publicly acknowledge sin, and trust in Christ alone for the redemption of sin (Romans 3:23; Proverbs 20:9; Romans 6:23; Acts 20:21; Acts 3:19; Romans 5:8; John 3:16; John 14:6).
The Christian church is one of the few organizations in the world that requires a public acknowledgment of sin as a condition for membership. In one sense the church has fewer hypocrites than any institution because by definition the church is a haven for sinners. If the church claimed to be an organization of perfect people then her claim would be hypocritical. But no such claim is made by the church. There is no slander in the charge that the church is full of sinners. Such a statement would only compliment the church for fulfilling her divinely appointed task. (R.C. Sproul, Reason to Believe, p. 78-79)
Most Bible believing Christians who truly understand the Gospel will say with the apostle Paul, “I am the worst of sinners.” They are sinful; they recognize their sin, confess their sin to God and actively seek to become more Christ-like. To call a Christian who is struggling with sin a hypocrite is unfair and a wrong assumption.
Is The Church Empty of Hypocrites?
The second reason the church is accused of being full of hypocrites is because there are, indeed, hypocrites in the church. The church may not be full of hypocrites, but there are some Christians who are guilty of the sin of hypocrisy. Christians are guilty of all kinds of sin and are not above pretending to be more righteous than they are.
However, not everyone who attends church is a Christian. In the same way, not everyone who professes to be a Christian is a true believer. In Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus predicted that the church will always have a mixture of true believers and false. Hypocrisy of faith in the church happens when a person makes an insincere profession of faith and joins the church under false pretensions. They may go to church to maintain a certain social status or because their family and friends attend. Word of mouth is a great marketing tool and some people may attend church to build customer contacts with the goal of increasing sales or promoting their business.
Some “unbelievers” are church members not because they willfully and deceitfully give a pretense of faith but because the church neither requires nor makes clear a decisive confession of faith. In their zeal to gain membership or be all-inclusive in spirit, some churches ignore their own standards for membership. In this case it is not the individual “unbeliever” who is being hypocritical but the church itself who misleads or misinforms the applicant for membership. (R.C. Sproul, Reason to Believe, p. 79-80)
Jesus Christ Was Not a Hypocrite
If we are honest with ourselves, we are all hypocrites to some degree – any time we present ourselves as better than we are, it is a form of hypocrisy. We must remember that the purpose of the church is not to bring praise or glory to its members; the church exists to praise, honor, worship, and obey Jesus Christ.
The ultimate question of hypocrisy must be focused on Christ. Don’t judge Christianity or the church by what Christians do, but by what Christ did. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth as a man (living without sin) to secure the salvation of mankind.
If you have been let down by a Christian, pastor or church member, perhaps it is time to find another church, but your faith should not rest in man. When considering the eternal destination of your soul, don’t let the actions of sinful man determine your commitment or distract you from the Gospel message. Jesus Christ was not a hypocrite, in Him there is no deception, no dishonesty; in Him there is only truth.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24)
In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3)
Excerpts taken from “The Church Is Full of Hypocrites”