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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Woe to You, Hypocrites!

I think we're all agreed that Jesus's harshest words were for the hypocrites of His day. Indeed, if we understand the Hebraism, "woe to you", it's actually worse than we first thought. "Woe to you" is a Hebrew phrase for a curse. You know, the classic "God will be angry" kind of curse. The kind of thing you really don't want to face. Even in the Old Testament David wrote, "I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites." (Psa 26:4) Apparently "hypocrite" is not something God smiles upon, is tolerant of, is non-judgmental about.

What is a hypocrite? It's not "someone who is holier than thou" despite the popular notion that seems to prevail. A hypocrite is a play actor, someone who pretends to be righteous but isn't. A biblical hypocrite is someone with a mask, someone who claims to live right on "this point" while actually violating "this point". Thus, a person who, say, violated a particular issue in their youth and then tells their offspring "Don't do that" will only be defined as a hypocrite if they claim, "I never did." "Don't do that because I did and it really didn't work out well" is not hypocrisy.

There is no doubt that there are hypocrites in the Church. It would be foolish to deny it. We have a tendency to try to cloak ourselves with what we believe the folk around us are wearing, so to speak, so if we think they're "righteous", we'll often wrap ourselves up in a "righteous" wrapping even if we don't possess such holy living and claim we're righteous, too. Thus, it seems extremely common, for instance, for good church folk to complain about that nasty ol' porn problem others are having and then, I'm fairly certain, go home to their computers to look it up ... again. I remember the TV preacher, perhaps best known for his rants about sexual sin with prostitutes, who was arrested for dallying with prostitutes. Oh, yes, hypocrites abound in church. But it's not hypocrisy to say, "I believe; help my unbelief." (Mark 9:24) It's not hypocrisy to say, "This activity is wrong and I have a problem with it." (James 5:16) The sure remedy for hypocrisy is not a better mask, but no mask at all. The sure remedy for hypocrisy is admission of guilt.

So I find it disheartening these days to see the numbers of people who complain about hypocrites while practicing it themselves. They complain that "You claim to be loving but won't accept people with different views than you" while claiming to be loving and not accepting those people with views about which they're complaining. They rail against exclusive Christianity while be exclusive of those against whom they're railing. They are judgmental about those they deem judgmental and intolerant of those they deem intolerant and call it "good" -- defend it heartily. That, dear reader, is the definition of "hypocrite". And Jesus had His harshest words for hypocrites.

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