Friday, November 25, 2016

Hypocrisy

It appears that we've shifted another word -- "hypocrisy". It is a popular accusation against many people with morals, Christians especially. But just what is it?

The word used to mean "a feigning to be what one is not : the false assumption of an appearance of virtue." The word comes from the Greek, hupokrisis, which was actually a theatrical term. It referred to the masks that actors wore when they played a part in a play. That's the idea: putting on a mask. Appearing to be what you are not. (Thus the "feigning" in the original definition.) Originally, then, a hypocrite was one who claimed to have virtue that he or she did not actually have.

It no longer means that. Current dictionaries hold that it means "behavior that does not agree with what someone claims to believe or feel", "the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform." There is a difference between the original definition and the current one. The original version allows someone to say, "This is right or wrong and I admit that I don't measure up" and they would not be classified as a hypocrite. The earlier definition would allow parents who did drugs as in their youth to tell their kids, "Don't do drugs. I did; it's a bad thing." The current definition would define that as hypocrisy. Today's version requires you to fully satisfy in your own behavior what you classify as right or wrong. Anyone who holds a standard of virtue but fails to meet it is a hypocrite. Or, to put it another way, all Christians are hypocrites by definition since we all agree with God's definition of right and wrong while we lean on Him for forgiveness of our admitted failure to conform to His standards.

Now tell me that's not by design.

Here's the problem. When a word means X and then, without really noticing, changes to Y, what do we do with our Bibles (for instance)? Using this word as an example, Jesus referred to the Pharisees as hypocrites. He meant that they were pretending to have virtue that they did not have. They laid requirements on others that they were unwilling to accept themselves and did not admit they did not meet (Matt 23:2-3; Matt 23:13-36; Luke 11:46). Consider, on the other hand, the father praying that Jesus would heal his son. Jesus told him that faith was required. He responded, "I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24) This is an admission. "Yes, the standard I must meet is belief. I don't meet it. Please help me to meet it." This man, in the biblical record, was not a hypocrite. All well and good ... until you read the new definition back into the Bible. Jesus used the term and meant that they didn't meet the standards they called for. In this scenario, Jesus would also call Paul a hypocrite for admitting that he sought to know more fully Christ but had not obtained it (Phil 3:7-12). James said, "We all stumble in many ways" (James 3:2) which, under today's definition, is a tacit admission that all of us are hypocrites. In the end, if you hold that a there is a standard of virtue, unless you arrive at perfection you are nothing more than a hypocrite because you are not perfect.

Don't fall for it. It is Satan's ploy to get you to stop pointing to God, to stop pointing to the problem of sin -- in your own life and in others -- to stop bringing the Gospel. It is Satan's grand, "I'm okay; you're okay." It is one of the father of lies' biggest lies. If you cannot meet a standard, do not agree with it. Because hypocrites are bad. And the glorious circle here is that declaring that hypocrites are bad is hypocritical if you have ever held a standard that you've failed to meet. Well played, Satan.

8 comments:

Stan said...

Dan, I apologize. I see now that I did you an injustice by allowing a couple of your comments to go through. I do not intend to do that on any ongoing basis. The reasons for which you (and you alone) have been blocked from making comments haven't changed. And I apparently misled you by allowing those comments through the other day so that you think you might be able to get through here now. I apologize for that. It won't happen. I've returned to not posting or reading comments from you. You can spare yourself the trouble. I will try not to make that mistake again.

Craig said...

Like so many things in the Christian life, this seems to be about intent. If the intent is to mislead or give others a false impression then it becomes a problem. If the intent is honesty and transparency, then it's less of a problem. Ultimately we all sin and to pretend otherwise is foolish, it's more about your willingness to change your behavior to fit the definition of sin, or to change the definition of sin to excuse your behavior.

The other aspect is that we're not talking about adapting the definition to acknowledge adjustments in the meaning, we're talking about a complete redefinition of the word. But, this is (as you point out) merely one more in an increasing number of words that are being redefined in order to advance an agenda.

Stan said...

It is my conviction that intent is the most common problem, the most common cause of sin.

Craig said...

I'm not sure what you mean by that.

I'd suggest that self centeredness is the underlying cause of all sin, beyond that I'm sure intention plays a role but I don't get your point.

Stan said...

You said "This seems to be about intent." I was agreeing. And I was referring to the intent of self-centeredness. It is possible, for instance, to do something for self and to do the same thing for Christ. One would be sin; the other would not.

Craig said...

Thanks, I thought that's where you were going but wasn't sure.

Just curious, one common example of an instance where an act usually thought of as sinful might not be is that of the Nazi's at the door asking about the Jews hidden in your attic. I feel confident that lying about the presence of the Jews would be "permissible" in that case.

Would you fall on the side of "bearing false witness" is not a blanket ban on lying, or that telling the lie would be "excused" in the pursuit of the greater good?

Stan said...

Well, I believe that "bearing false witness" entails malice, not merely lying. We know, for instance, that Rahab lied about the spies and is counted as a woman of faith for it. We know that God told Samuel to deceive Saul. We know that "lying spirits from the Lord" came upon Ahab's prophets. So I'm not convinced that all "lying" is evil. (I read an interesting piece on that recently. If all lying was evil, we would need to stop playing football, setting up timers for lights when we're away, and a host of other things that no one bats an eye at.) But that's just me.

Craig said...

I agree, just curious. I hadn't thought of the football or lights aspect.