“Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others.” (Matthew 23:1-5a, ESV)
Imagine that I filled an auditorium with random people and asked them to tell me the first word that came to their minds when I said the word “Christian”—what would the most frequently repeated word be? If you guessed “hypocrite,” you’d be right. As Christians, we don’t like to consider ourselves hypocrites and you might even be offended right now, but I challenge you to ask yourself a question. “Why am I offended right now?”
Jesus came down to set the record straight. He uncovered our misguided assumptions, gave us an up-close and personal picture of God’s character, clarified our scriptural misunderstandings, and showed us a life that is possible in the kingdom of God. In the process of doing these things, he exposed the state of our hearts, revealed our idols, and demonstrated how much we needed him. This is why we feel offended by the word hypocrite. Jesus’s life exposed our own hypocrisy—the thoughts, words, and actions that do not align with the truth. Author, speaker, teacher, and singer Jackie Hill Perry recently said, “You will find hypocrisy everywhere except heaven.” You see—we are all hypocrites. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus is not satisfied to simply expose our hypocrisy. He offers us hope.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17, ESV). Jesus didn’t step down to earth to merely point out all of the things we were doing wrong. He came to show us a different way—the kingdom way. Jesus offers us the hope of freedom from our own hypocrisy. Jesus promises to prune us, to remove the dead things in our lives to make room for healthy things. When Jesus exposes a wrong thought, assumption, or behavior, he is inviting us to repent. To repent simply means to change our mind—to turn away from one thing and toward something else. When Jesus exposes something in us, we don’t have to cling to it. We can trust him and let it go—as we let it go, we can turn to Jesus. He is faithful to show us a better way.
So does this mean our witness is useless? No! Our lives are evidence of the transformative power of Jesus. If we profess to be a Christian, then it would be hypocritical not to change when Jesus exposes the hypocrisy in our lives. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are able to show those around us that we are willing to not only talk the Jesus talk but walk the Jesus walk. The transformation that takes place in us because of Jesus offers the world hope in this world of hypocrites.
Jesus’s life on earth was not just for the people of Israel who were there—his life on earth was for us as well. The gospel accounts are trustworthy because they are inspired by God. Whenever we read or meditate on them, we are opening ourselves up to hear God speak to us through them. If God reveals hypocrisy in you as you read or meditate on scripture, as he often does in me, ask God for the courage to set the old thought or behavior down so you have room for the way Jesus showed us in his life on earth.
A prayer: God, you are so good. Your word tells us that when you start a new work in us, you are faithful to bring it to completion. As we continue to walk with you, reveal where we are getting things wrong, and help us to change our minds. We trust that you do not condemn us, but you love us by transforming us from who we once were into the likeness of your son, Jesus. Thank you for loving us as we are and staying with us as we grow. We love you, Lord and it is in your name we pray. Amen.