Hypocrites and church expectations

I recently saw a television show where a religious leader was involved in some kind of distinctly unchristian activity. One of the main characters, a crime detective declares, “It makes you wonder about belief in God.”

By the way, there is a logical fallacy here. To find that people in the church are not perfect is no evidence that there is, or is not, a God in heaven!

In my comments, I am thinking of two kinds of people. First, non-Christians who seem eager to justify their non-Christian lifestyle by pointing out the hypocrisy they see in the church, and second, Christians who seem to be far too quick to tag someone else with the “hypocrite” label. There seems to be a propensity in our day to beat up on the church, by Hollywood and ourselves, apparently.

For instance, Jesus was accused of “forbidding to give tribute to Caesar” (Luke 23:1,2) when he had said the polar opposite just a week before: “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Luke 10:25).

But critics seldom care about the facts; they simply care to express their venom. You need to know that the world is watching. They watch your attitudes and your actions. They are offended by the stands you have taken as a Christian (it reflects badly on them), and they watch for one – just one – slip-up on your part. When you do slip up, they will be all over it like fleas on a dog.

I know that’s unfair. But they are not looking to be fair, they are looking at justifying their own actions. “I know John Doe,” they will say for the rest of their lives. “He was a hard core member of the church, and do you know what he did?” They utilize the two-wrongs-make-a-right reasoning to justify their own lack of commitment to Christ: “That’s why I don’t go to church,” they declare triumphantly, “Because of hypocrites like John Doe.”

So what hypocrite should I worry about? Please note that one is not a hypocrite if he is theologically conservative. One is not a hypocrite if he believes something that differs from what you believe. To truly know if someone is a hypocrite would mean that you not only know all of his activities, but also be able to discern his thoughts and motives.

Really? You can do that?

The tough part about identifying a hypocrite is that we cannot actually tell if what he says conforms with what his heart believes because, please mark this, you cannot read his heart! You have no idea what is in his heart!

It doesn’t take a genius to spot mistakes in the church. All it takes is eyes in your head. Often the only one who doesn’t know he is a hypocrite … is the hypocrite himself.

So the next time you hear someone railing on and on about how there are hypocrites in the church, remind them that the hypocrite you should worry about is yourself.

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Stan Mitchell

Stan began preaching in 1976, and worked in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He served as preacher with the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He was Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He was married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He authored five books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs; Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song; Equipping the Saints for Ministry; and Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation. Stan passed away 19 Feb. 2019.

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One thought on “Hypocrites and church expectations

  1. “The tough part about identifying a hypocrite is that we cannot actually tell if what he says conforms with what his heart believes because, please mark this, you cannot read his heart! You have no idea what is in his heart!”
    It may be that I am not understanding exactly what you are saying, here; however, this statement seems to me to be contradictory to what Jesus says in Matthew 12:34-35 and 15:17ff. In these passages, Jesus clearly says that we can know what is in a person’s heart by what he says. I may not be able to know his motives, but I can clearly know that if he speaks hypocrisy, it comes from his heart. I once knew a preacher who would say things to brethren that were not always nice but were sly cuts. Then he said that was not his intention. Such contradicts Jesus’ words. If you say those things, they are in and from your heart. If a man speaks things critical of his brother, they come from his heart, a heart that contains malice, envy, etc.

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