What Is a Hypocrite?

“It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.”” (Matthew 7:5 The Message)

Have you ever been called a hypocrite? I have. And it stung. Not because I was offended, but because in that moment, it seemed an accurate observation. We know when we mess up and we must live with the unfortunate consequences.

The Christian hip hop singer, Lecrae, wrote: “Yes I’m a Christian. Yes, I make hypocritical decisions. Yes, I fall. I stumble. I struggle. I am a mess. But I’m God’s mess. And He can turn a mess into a masterpiece.”

Those of us who are Jesus followers understand what he’s talking about, but those words can be confusing words to someone who doesn’t yet know the Lord. We understand that we’re “works in progress,” but it can appear to be a clear case of fraudulence to an unbeliever when they see or hear something from us that isn’t a positive representation of what Jesus would say or who He is.

It’s ironic that pre-Christians expect us to be perfect when they clearly know they’re not. But think with me a minute. Put yourself in their shoes. Often to notice someone who professes faith in Christ has said or done something “hypocritical” can mean a couple of things. It either means the person making the accusation is a pharisaical “Christian,” seeking to judge you to make themselves look better, or they’re a seeker hoping and praying this Christianity business is real. They want you to be the real thing. They need you to be authentic and uncompromising.

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When we fall; when we fail to live up to the standards of Biblical Christianity, we not only fail our Lord, we fail those who walk with us in our faith. But worse, we fail those whom the Holy Spirit is drawing to Jesus, painting for them an inaccurate picture of what it means to be a Jesus follower. Depending on how we respond to our failure we can push them further away. As believers, when we stumble, and we all do, let’s own it.

When I was just starting out as a youth Pastor, I was given responsibility to make sure each graduating senior received a gift from the church. Most were given during Sunday morning worship, but there were several that then became my job to personally deliver. The plot thickened because I was brand new. I knew almost no one, and especially not any students who didn’t regularly attend. So I procrastinated. Long story short, I got a call from the Elder who was overseeing the Youth Ministry. He was not happy.

He chewed my ear for several minutes, letting me know I’d failed the church, the kids, him, the Lord and on and on. I listened silently. Finally, he took a breath and said: “Aren’t you going to respond? Aren’t you going to defend yourself?” Sheepishly I admitted: “I have no defense; I was wrong, and I’ll make it right.”

That Elder became a Mentor and friend from that experience.

According to Strong’s Concordance, a “hypocrite” is “one who answers, an interpreter; an actor, stage player; a dissembler, pretender.” In other words, it’s someone who deliberately misrepresents the truth. They knowingly pretend to be something they’re not. I pray that’s never any of us who bear our Savior’s holy Name.

Yes, we mess up. Yes, we’re “masterpieces” in the making. And no, we’re not, nor will we ever be perfect this side of eternity. But when we fail or stumble or fall, or sin, whatever you choose to call it, let’s own it and make it right as quickly as we possibly can, with the Lord first, then with whomever we need to as He directs.

Those watching our lives may misunderstand and misuse the word “hypocrite,” but may it never be true of those of us who are seeking to walk circumspectly before our perfect Master, Redeemer, and Friend.

Blessings, Ed 😊

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