Matthew 15:7-8

A pastor answered his telephone to hear a lady’s voice request: “Please have six cases of whiskey sent to my house as we’re having a party.” Inadvertently, she had dialed the wrong number and the pastor recognized the voice as that of one of his parishioners. Gently he replied, “I am your pastor.” He had expected an apology for her dialing the wrong number. Instead she retorted in an angry voice, “Well Pastor, what are you doing at the liquor store?”

One day Linus is sitting on the curb talking to Charlie Brown, telling him about his aspirations: “Charlie Brown, when I get big I’m going to be a humble little country doctor. I’ll live in the city, see, and every morning I’ll get up, climb into my sports car and zoom into the country! Then I’ll start healing people. I’ll heal everybody for miles around.” And in the last frame he concludes, “I’ll be a world famous humble little country doctor.”

HYPOCRISY! Pretending to be what one is not. The New Testament meaning of hypocrisy and hypocrite reflects its use in Greek drama. In the Greek theater, a hypocrite was one who wore a mask and played a part on the stage, imitating the speech, mannerisms, and conduct of the character portrayed.

Throughout His ministry, Jesus vigorously exposed and denounced the hypocrisy of many who opposed Him, especially the scribes and Pharisees. They paraded their charitable deeds, praying and fasting as a theatrical display to win the praise of men (Matt 6:1-2,5,16). They sought to give the appearance of being godly, but they were actually blind to the truth of God (Luke 20:19-20). Six times in the 23rd Chapter of Matthew, Jesus calls the Pharisees, hypocrites! “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness.” “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”

The apostle Paul encountered hypocrisy among some Jewish Christians, who refused to eat with the Gentile converts. Paul pointed out that “sincere love” is one of the marks of Christian ministry. And he exhorted his readers to behave like Christians: “Let love be without hypocrisy” (Rom 12:9).

Most everyone will remember the days of the Susan B. Anthony dollar. It only lasted for three years and there is a very good reason. It looked too much like a quarter and people didn’t like all of the confusion. In the public’s mind a dollar needed to look like it was worth 4 quarters, not just 25 cents. The world expects believers to look like Christ, not a cheap imitation. People outside of the church see too many professing Christians who look more like “chump change” than the real thing.

A man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.” When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.” Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” (Acts 5:1)

I have been in ministry for a long time. The most difficult Christians to deal with are those who are utterly dedicated to preserving their self-image of perfection…. They are unceasingly engaged in the effort to maintain the appearance of moral purity. They worry about this a great deal. They are acutely sensitive to social norms and what others might think of them . . They dress well, go to work on time, pay their taxes, and outwardly seem to live lives that are above reproach. The words “image,” “appearance,” and “outwardly” are crucial to understanding the morality of the evil. While they seem to lack any motivation to be good, they intensely desire to appear good. Their ‘goodness” is all on a level of pretense. It is, in effect, a lie. Actually, the lie is designed not so much to deceive others as to deceive themselves.

If your Christianity doesn’t work at home, don’t export it. More people are won or lost in the home than in the church. The home is either the greatest witness for Christ, or the worst. To pray without action is hypocrisy. To act without prayer is pagan. The Christian life involves the balanced tension between total dependence on God and responsible action by the one who prays.

There are very few who in their hearts do not believe in God, but what they will not do is give Him exclusive right of way. They are not ready to promise full allegiance to God alone. Many a professing Christian hits a stumbling-block because his worship is divided. On Sunday he worships God; on week days God has little or no place in his thoughts.

The Pharisees were always getting in trouble with Jesus, because they were the religious leaders, and knew better. “Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21)

We all need a passion for holiness. Yet we all recognize that within our own lives we have the tendency to be dishonest spiritually. “I am still a recovering hypocrite.” Although we quickly become defensive when someone says the church is full of hypocrites, we would do better to acknowledge that we are all “recovering hypocrites” who could very easily slip back into the sin of hypocrisy. For your friend who is concerned about the church being “full of hypocrites,” just tell him it’s true. Then invite him to church because there’s always room for one more.

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