Hypocrisy isn’t new to the day in which we live because the reasons for it are part of the human condition — hearts far from God. In Matthew 15:7-9 we read of Jesus quoting from the Old Testament about the hypocrisy in Isaiah’s day, likening it to that which Jesus saw in the leaders and teachers of the law in His day.
Heart Issues Leading to Hypocrisy
Jesus defined hypocrites as people who “honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Matt. 15:7-9). Think about heart issues that can cause us to be far from God.
When we entertain sin in our own hearts and lives yet teach others to live upright, we’re hypocrites.
When we struggle with the sin in our own hearts and lives yet judge others who do the same while pretending not to have the problem, we’re hypocrites.
When we say what we know people want to hear yet do something else or do what will make us look good in order to gain their approval yet not really mean it, such people-pleasing behavior is hypocritical.
When we get pulled away by our busyness, even in serving, and focus more on what we do than who we are, we’re heading down the road to hypocrisy.
When we’re consumed with self — what feels good to us and how we look to others, or when we’re focused on what we accomplish more than being sold out to God — what pleases Him and makes Him look good, then we’ll be quicker to yield to our hypocritical tendencies.
Hypocrisy is a Heart Issue and God Sees Right Through It
As Bible teachers we might think we can get away with our hypocrisy. Students don’t usually see our day-to-day lives. And, unless we’re honest with them, they don’t see what’s in our hearts. Here are some truths we need to keep in mind:
- People often see more than what we realize. Sometimes they see hypocrisy in us when we don’t acknowledge it in ourselves.
- God always sees right through our hypocrisy for He looks at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7; Ps. 44:21; Prov. 21:2).
Prevent Hypocrisy By Taking Care of Your Heart
We read in Scripture that “we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1). Verses before and after James 3:1 suggest that our accountability ties in to the need to back up our many words with actions — to not be hypocritical. Since hypocrisy is a heart issue, it behooves us as teachers to take care of, or guard, our hearts. — Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Prov. 4:23)
1) Assessment Needed
Since we don’t always see the hypocrisy in ourselves, we need an objective assessment of our heart, something only the One who truly sees our heart can do (Ps. 139:23-24; Prov. 17:3; 1 Thess. 2:4).
2) Abandonment of Plans to Hide
Since the One to whom we will give an account sees right through our hypocrisy, we’re foolish to hold on to pretending He doesn’t know. Reflect on these verses: Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the LORD, who do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us? Who will know?” You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “You did not make me”? Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”? (Isa. 29:15-16)
3) Acknowledgement of Need for His Power
If “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jer. 17:9), then abandoning hypocrisy won’t happen apart from a power greater than our hearts, which we have in Christ Jesus. Because of His resurrection power, we can set our “hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1). There we’re stripped of all pretense. We exchange our depraved, defensive, desperate, distracted, and divided hearts for a heart devoted to and found pure in Him.
4) Authenticity Possible
None of us, no matter how long we’ve been teaching, will rid ourselves of hypocritical tendencies. But, we can be authentic, admitting that we are a work in progress, not claiming to have it all together, when we allow God to strip our hearts of pride and insecurities.
Preventing hypocrisy is so important for Bible teachers, not just because of our personal accountability, but also because of the effects it has on our students — the topic of the next post.