I’m going to make a confession: for years now, I’ve had a terrible fear of becoming a hypocrite. It’s been a huge stumbling block for me. I know there are other Christians out there who also hate hypocrisy so much that they are terrified of falling into it themselves. I’m going to talk about why that fear is ruining your faith.
I know this might not be an issue for a lot of Christians, but for many of us it can be debilitating. When you’ve seen the ugly side of religion and just how hypocritical some professing Christians can be, the last thing you want is to become a hypocrite yourself. You go out of your way to make sure that you will never end up like those people, but in the process you can sometimes become the very thing you hate.
I grew up with hypocrisy. My dad was a preacher and had his own non-profit organization, and his dad was also a preacher. Everyone looked at my dad and his family and thought they were this wonderful Christian family (and probably still do, unfortunately). But behind closed doors, it was a different story.
During my childhood and the beginning of my adolescence (before my parents got divorced), my home was filled with anger and abuse and perversion and hypocrisy. On the outside my family looked like a happy Christian family, but in reality my home life was hell. My dad (and his parents) knew all the right things to say, but when you stripped away all their exterior religiosity, all you got were angry, empty shells and people who didn’t really know Jesus at all.
Doesn’t that sound a lot like the Pharisees? That’s exactly what they were like. What did Jesus say the yeast of the Pharisees was? Hypocrisy (Luke 12:1).
Many people read the gospels and don’t identify with the Pharisees at all. They feel grateful because they identify more with the prostitutes and tax-collectors than the Pharisees. Although I often definitely relate to these blatant sinners more than the Pharisees, I’ve occasionally had moments when I felt like Jesus’ attacks on the teachers of the law somehow applied to me.
Yes, for some weird reason I occasionally grouped myself in with the Pharisees and felt condemned. Maybe this is because when I was younger I was religious and Pharisaical for a while. But I think it probably has a lot more to do with my upbringing and my fear that I’ll somehow be like my hypocritical family members.
I’m going to be honest: throughout my walk with God these last couple years (which was when I got serious about Jesus), I’ve often been tormented by my fear of hypocrisy. I feel like whenever I am bold and open about my faith or like blatantly Christian things, I’m automatically being a hypocrite. Clearly that’s Satan trying to discourage and silence me, but I often bite the bait and think, Yes, I’m just a hypocrite, and I’m doing more damage than good by being open about my faith. I’ve often even avoided blogging because I felt like I wasn’t good enough to write about anything spiritual.
Maybe you’ve felt the same way. Maybe you’ve been hesitant to share your faith because you were worried you weren’t good enough. Maybe you sometimes feel hesitant to do things like listen to Christian music or post about your faith on social media because you feel like you don’t measure up, or like it gives people more of a reason to criticize you.
I’ve often felt like I need to be absolutely perfect in order to confidently call myself a Christian. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve doubted my salvation because I messed up. I often see myself as this hypocritical, screwed up person who will never bear fruit. But this is how the enemy sees me, not God.
It’s a weird paradox, this whole sanctification thing. When we focus on being holy and rely on our own feeble effort, we usually end up worse off than if we weren’t trying to be holy at all. But when we stop trying to be perfect and just fix our eyes on Jesus, we often end up bearing fruit organically. Because it’s really not about us.
We have to remember that none of us are “good” people on our own. There isn’t a single “good” person on the planet by God’s standards. We’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). If we think we can be without sin, then we clearly don’t understand what sin really is, because sin is anything that falls short of God’s perfect standards. And I’d like to see someone who claims to live up to God’s perfect standards every single day.
Oftentimes people don’t care about holiness enough, and they are hypocrites without even realizing it. There are some people who wouldn’t think they need to read this post because they don’t even feel convicted about their hypocrisy or don’t think living a double life is a big deal. You know, the people who say they love Jesus but deliberately live lifestyles that don’t reflect His standards of holiness. The people who think it’s okay to go to church on a Sunday but live like the world for the rest of the week.
Even non-Christians criticize these kinds of people for being immoral because they hear them profess Christ but see them live a life that doesn’t match that proclamation. That’s hypocrisy. Being human and going through struggles isn’t hypocrisy. Messing up isn’t hypocrisy.
Chances are if you’re worried about being a hypocrite then you’re probably not one. Most hypocrites have no problem with the fact that they’re not authentic and don’t live out what they preach.
Having said that, if you constantly believe the lie that you are a hypocrite, you just might become one. What we believe about ourselves often becomes a reality. When you constantly try your hardest not to be something, you can end up driving yourself crazy. But if you just rest in the knowledge that you’re God’s child, you’ll be free to be who He actually created you to be.
What made the Pharisees hypocritical? The fact that they sinned? No, of course not. Sin in itself isn’t what angered Jesus the most, as He didn’t have beef with the prostitutes and tax collectors like He did the teachers of the law. What made the Pharisees detestable was the fact that they were dishonest and didn’t practice what they preached (Matthew 23:3).
The Pharisees pretended to be holy in front of people, but in reality they were sinful and heartless. They didn’t bear any fruit, and they didn’t care about people, or obeying God for that matter. All they cared about was their religion and power and reputations. For them it was all about appearances.
Don’t think that I’m saying it’s okay to live in sin as a Christian. I’m not at all. As Christians we better walk the walk as well as talk the talk. But if we put all this pressure on ourselves to be perfect and carry burdens we were never meant to carry then of course we’ll fail.
The thing is, when we have a fear of hypocrisy, we’re really sinning because we’re believing the lie that our faith is about us and our own spirituality rather than about Jesus. If we would just realize that we’re all terrible and broken without God’s grace then we wouldn’t feel all this pressure to be perfect. It’s the Holy Spirit Who makes us good.
Sometimes we have seasons in our lives when we come face-to-face with our own wretchedness. The illusion of being a “good” person is shattered, and sometimes this can crush us. Because the world will tell you that there are “good” people and bad people, and no one wants to feel like a bad person. But according to the Bible, we’re all sinful and wretched.
There’s no one who isn’t in need of God’s grace. There’s no one who can be good enough on their own to make it into heaven. Once we truly see that we really do have no good apart from God, we’ll understand the freedom that comes from denying yourself and fixing your eyes on Christ.
As I began writing this, something came to mind that I haven’t really thought about before: if we want to be free of the fear of hypocrisy, then we must forgive the hypocrites we’ve known in our lives.
Oftentimes the very things we judge people for are the things we end up doing ourselves. I’ve seen this again and again in my own life. That’s why we have to be merciful even to people who don’t deserve it.
Chances are you’ve known Christians who were hypocritical. Maybe they even almost put you off of the faith for good. Maybe you’re filled with so much anger towards them that you can’t seem to move forward. Maybe you’re so focused on living a holy life and not being like them that you’ve forgotten the most important thing: God’s love.
It sucks getting hurt by anyone, but when Christians are the ones who hurt you, the wound can go even deeper. Out of all people, supposed Christians are the ones you’re supposed to be able to trust. But sometimes professing Christians are the ones who do the most damage. Religion can often leave people worse off than before. And it’s hard to come to terms with that reality.
Even though it’s hard, we have to forgive the hypocrites we’ve known. I have to forgive my dad and his family. I have to forgive the countless Christians I’ve known and seen and heard about who haven’t practiced what they preached. Because it’s not about them, it’s about your freedom. God is the only Judge, and we should never try to do His job.
If we show others mercy when they don’t measure up, then God will show us mercy when we fall short (Matthew 5:7, 6:14). Jesus said that the same standard we use to judge others is what He will use to judge us (Matthew 7:2). Whoa, isn’t that a sobering realization? We probably shouldn’t go around judging and condemning Christians when they don’t reach our standards if we don’t even meet those standards ourselves, let alone God’s standards.
So if you’ve been crushed by the fear of hypocrisy, I want to encourage you. Listen to what God says about you, not what the enemy is saying. The devil wants you to feel like a hypocrite, because then you won’t be bold enough to speak out about your faith and share the gospel with the lost.
Don’t carry what God never asked you to. Jesus was perfect because we couldn’t be perfect on our own. Your life should be a reflection of His grace and redemption. Holiness is extremely important, but grace is there so that we can get back up after we fall and never live in condemnation again.
More Christians need to feel free to boast in their weaknesses like Paul did (2 Corinthians 12:9), because humbling ourselves and being honest about where we’re at is freeing. We should never feel like we have to appear perfect to others, because we will inevitably get crushed under all the pressure.
When it comes to it, none of us are worthy of the name Christian. We’re all flawed and broken sinners who were humble enough to admit we needed a Savior. Now that you’ve accepted Him, don’t try to finish the rest of the race without Him.
I want to stop relying on my thoughts and feelings and feeble attempts at being holy. I want to abide in Jesus like He told us to, because we can do nothing apart from Him (John 15:5). If we try to do the Holy Spirit’s job for Him, we’ll become exhausted. However, if we boast in our weaknesses and are authentic about our struggles, we’ll show people the importance of God’s grace and the transformational power of truly submitting to Him.
When we’re living in the Spirit, we can be free from hypocrisy. Because after all, it’s not about our attempts at holiness, but God’s grace. That’s the gospel.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Am I feeling like a hypocrite because I’m consciously living in sin and not reflecting God’s holiness, or because I’m trying to be perfect?
Am I actually walking by the Spirit and abiding in Jesus or trying to get by in my own effort?
Have I forgiven the hypocrites in my life?
Am I judging others too harshly and therefore heaping judgment upon myself?
Am I more concerned about my spiritual reputation than my private relationship with God?