"They're All a Bunch of Hypocrites!"

Surely you have heard this exchange.
“Do you attend church?”
“No way!” ”
“Why not?”
“They’re all a bunch of hypocrites up there!”
At this point, the one posing the questions is supposed to pause, see the profundity of the charge and slink away in shame.
Hypocrite simply means, “one who is pretending to be something they are not.” The popular usage usually refers to someone who fails to live up to a standard bestowed on their position in society.
Originally the word was ascribed to actors playing a part. One writer has said, “The art of the actor is that from the moment he dons the mask his whole conduct on stage should be in keeping with his allotted role” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament 8:560).
Let us consider this concept for a moment. Two films are under consideration. In the first, a man roams the streets filming whomever passes in front of his camera. In the second, friends are hired to play roles according to a script. Which film is using actors? Obviously it would be the second film.
Someone acts purposely on stage or film to portray someone they are not. By definition, for someone to be a hypocrite they must do so purposefully. If we inadvertently wander onto the stage of a live play in the park, we are not suddenly billed as an actor in that production. Someone who dons a mask has to do so intentionally.
The hypocritical Christian is portraying a faithful believer when they intend to deceive. Vine’s says “it was a custom of Greek and Roman actors to speak in large masks with mechanical devices for augmenting the force of the voice” (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, p. 242). No actor alters their appearance or voice without intending to do so.
Christians who are weak and sinful are not necessarily hypocrites. Christians who battle temptations and lose frequently are not hypocrites, but sinners in need of forgiveness. We are all sinners (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:10). We all fail to be what we intend. If this made one a hypocrite, then everyone would be a hypocrite. Consider that when an alcoholic refuses a drink or a rapist passes on a victim, they are hypocrites by the popular definition.
Let us consider some thoughts. First, the charge evidences a lack of understanding of what a true Christian is. Second, the charge creates an untenable situation. Since everyone who ever lived but Jesus was a hypocrite, we would not be able to live among human beings.
This charge also fails to account for personal responsibility. The hypocrisy of a Christian and the religious condition of the sinner are two different issues. The Christian will be held responsible by God for his hypocrisy. If he fails to remedy the situation and repent, he will lose his soul.
Yet, this has nothing to do with the sinner leveling the charge. They will also stand before God and be judged. Revelation 20:12 says, “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things written in the books” (NKJV). Then charges of hypocrisy will be futile. Now the accuser will be the one in trouble.
A safer path would be to worry about our own soul and let God handle the hypocrites.

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Richard lives in Florence, Alabama and is married to Deirdre. They have three daughters. He is an avid reader, devoted writer and lover of history and research. He is the author of "The Most Important Question" and is working on more books.

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