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Hypocrisy: Part 4 – Why hypocrisy is so bad

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:9-14).

After several posts looking at the perception (at least partly valid!) of outsiders that Christians are hypocrites, we must ask one question: So what exactly is so bad about being a hypocrite? And the answer to that question is found in the parable above. Of all people, the Pharisee should have known how great is the salvation of the Lord. As a spiritual leader, he would have known the Scriptures better than anyone, especially the tax collector. But instead of being humbled by his own brokenness and overwhelmed by the grace the Scriptures teach, he became a spiritual snob, rubbing his moral superiority in the noses of those around him.

The problem with hypocrisy is not merely that we fail to live up to what we say we believe. It’s that we look down on others for failing to live up to standards when we ourselves cannot live up to them. Most Christians are, unfortunately, too like the Pharisee. We are spiritual snobs. Instead of one beggar showing another beggar where to find some food, we become confident in our own righteousness. We lose site of our own depravity and the incredible grace that has been extended to us.

If a hypocrite is a Christian who fails to act in accordance with his/her stated beliefs, all of us are hypocrites. We are not finished products yet. Until the day that Christ returns, we will still fall short. Hopefully, we are, each day, being made more like Christ by the Spirit of God. But what will be my attitude during this process? Will I, like the Pharisee, stand on my moral high horse, condemning those who fall short of lofty standards? Or will the grace that has been extended to me overflow to others and meet them at the point of their sin, pain and anguish as it did for the tax collector?

Interact: Are you more like the Pharisee or the tax collector? How so? What needs to change in your life?

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