For it is by grace you have been saved...

Monday, September 29, 2008

On Being a Hypocrite

Anyone who has done much biblical study or has sat through enough sermons knows the origin of the word “hypocrite.” It is from the Greek word ὑποκρίτης (hypokrites), which has to do with the idea of “playing a part,” and at first denoted stage actors. We have since come to apply the term in a negative sense to someone who pretends to be something they’re not, i.e. saying one thing and doing another.

Jesus obviously had some nasty things to say about such folks. The word “hypocrite” was one applied repeatedly to the Pharisees; usually in conjunction with phrases like “whitewashed tombs” and “blind guide.” So it’s safe to say that most of us would not like to have this particular word applied to us. However, I find myself in that category.

I don’t know about other pastors, but there are many times when I stand before the church on a Sunday and say things about the Christian life and holiness and so on, and in my mind I’m thinking “what a hypocrite.” It’s not that I strive to hold others up to a higher standard than myself, it’s just that in proclaiming the “ideal” I often realize just how far I fall short myself.

This was especially true last night. We were dealing with 2nd Corinthians 12 where Paul is discussing his “thorn in the flesh.” I was focusing on some of the lessons Paul learned from this episode which helped him to find the confidence and contentment that we read in this text as well as in others. And I couldn’t help but realize that I was preaching to myself more than anyone. I, above all, need to learn these lessons. I could hear my heart screaming, “Hypocrite!”

Now I have to say that I never try to present truths such as these in a hypocritical fashion. I never say, “I’ve figured this out, so now you do it as well.” In fact, on occasions such as last night I make a point of confessing my weakness to our fellowship and let them know up front that these are issues God is dealing with me about in my life. Yet, I still feel like such a hypocrite.

I struggle with anxiety. I worry about things in direct violation of the Scriptural command to “not be anxious about anything.” I know it’s disobedience. I know it’s lack of faith. And yet I struggle. So where do I get the right to stand before our fellowship and talk about contentment in spite of circumstances, resting in the sufficiency of God’s grace, and so on. I believe those things with all my heart. I just struggle with actually living them out.

So I guess I’m writing this as some sort of cathartic confession. And I guess that an ulterior motive is to seek the prayers of as many friends and family as I can, asking you to petition the Lord on my behalf. Pray that I would be more faithful. Pray that I would trust fully in the sufficiency of God’s grace. Pray that I might be able to say with Paul, “imitate me as I imitate Christ,” instead of saying “this is how we ought to live even though I can’t seem to do it myself.” And above all, may God be glorified in all things.

Thanks for bearing with me in my catharsis. Hopefully the next entry will be a bit more useful.


Frances Clements said...

I will pray for you.

Anonymous said...

Hey Scott, Do you and Cheryl remember us in North Dakota?.
We remember you guys. Good to see you guys are still going strong in the Lord. Take Care. E-mail me at It would be really really really cool to hear from you guys. Later.
Your Friend from N.D.

Anonymous said...

PS. Della's is
Hope to hear from you's
Your Dakota Friends.

Anonymous said...

Wow! It's great to hear from you. We were just visiting with some folks who were going to a res in South Dakota and it brought back a lot of those memories. We'll email soon. Thanks for posting here!

Tim A said...

Good article. I don't like to think of it as being a hypocrite,though you may be right. I see being a hypocrite as a normal practice, which if we practice hypocrisy, then that means we are not genuinely born again.
We all, as Christians, can be hypocritical at times, and as preachers we are to preach the truth, even if it hurts, and it is more powerful when we feel the power of the Sword first.
Thanks a bunch.

Anonymous said...

I do not think that what you wrote is hypocrisy, it is our humanness that needs Jesus' blood, I am not trying to minimize our failures, and we all have them but trying to see them in the right context. Hypocrisy is someone who is pretending to be something that they are not. Our own human failure to be as holy as God is, is not hypocrisy. I think hypocrisy is something that Jesus hated because of the suffering it caused others to have. A "phoney or fake Christian" if it is possible to be such, is much more damaging and dangerous than a genuine honest true Christian who has failures. I believe the harm that a hyprocrite can cause is what angered Jesus so much.