Hypocrisy is a Heart Issue

Hypocrites - Hypocrisy is a Heart Issue

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.

Depraved Hearts

When we entertain sin in our own hearts and lives yet teach others to live upright, we’re hypocrites.

Defensive Hearts

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.

Desperate Hearts

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.

Distracted Hearts

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.

Divided Hearts

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.

Hypocrisy Isn’t New

Hypocrites - Hypocrisy Isn't New

Though Jesus spoke of the religious leaders and teachers when He lived here on earth, Bible teachers today would do well to heed His words.

You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.” (Matt. 15:7-9)

Just as it did then, hypocrisy still affects not only one’s own life but also those they teach. Understanding that hypocrisy isn’t new doesn’t excuse us today but rather should make use more vigilant and accountable.

Hypocrisy Then and Now

Hypocrisy existed in Jesus’ day but also obviously long before that. Jesus quoted prophetic words also applied to people of Isaiah’s day as can be read in the context of the verse Jesus quoted (Isaiah 29:13). This chapter in Isaiah described Jerusalem, the city of David, known as Ariel, meaning the lion of God (Isa. 29:1), as spiritually blind, lethargic, and lacking authenticity. God confronted their hypocrisy saying, “Woe to you” (29:1, 15).

Centuries later Jesus addressed the hypocrisy found in the Pharisees and teachers of the law of His day. Read through the Gospels and you’ll find Jesus repeatedly calling out the religious leaders and teachers of His day for their hypocrisy. Matthew 15 gives us just one of many examples.

Are Bible teachers today any different? Perhaps we don’t do exactly what the teachers of the law did then, but we still find inconsistencies between what we say and what we do. We still find ourselves sometimes telling our students to do one thing while not doing it ourselves. Our pride can still keep us from admitting our struggles. We still find ourselves trying to take the speck out of someone’s eye while paying no attention to the plank in our own eye (Matt. 7:3-5).

Why It Helps to Know that Hypocrisy Isn’t New

Since hypocrisy has been a human struggle through the ages, we shouldn’t presume that we would be the exemption. We too can easily fall prey. Pride can keep us from admitting our own susceptibility to this human condition. And, that same pride leads us into it (Prov. 16:18). While not all Christians should be pegged as hypocrites, we do all have the potential. — We need awareness and vigilance against it.

Since God’s reaction to hypocrisy didn’t change from the days of Isaiah to the time of Jesus, we should assume that God’s assessment and reaction to it today would be the same. And, the effects of hypocrisy remain the same as seen in how many people still identify hypocrisy as a reason for not becoming a Christian. Though people need to be looking at our perfect Savior, their tendency is to look at His imperfect followers and draw conclusions from that. Hypocritical church leaders and teachers can stunt the health and growth of those they serve. Certainly God would still say, “Woe to you!” — We need accountability and victory over it.

Criteria for Choosing Bible Teaching Methods

When preparing a Bible lesson, teachers will get to a point where they need to consider methodology. Even those using a pre-fab curriculum need an awareness of how to choose methods as what’s in the lesson plan may not always work well for their particular class or setting.

Top Two Basic Criteria for Choosing Bible Teaching Methods

While other factors do matter, answers to the following questions usually set teachers on the right track.

1) What method(s) best fit my objective?

As teachers look at each part of a given lesson, they must determine the objective and choose a method that accomplishes that type of aim. Some methods work best for gaining knowledge whereas other are good for addressing attitudes or working on behavior.

2) What methods best suits the age I teach?

Due to age level abilities, needs, and interests, some methods will work better for certain ages. Generally the younger the age, the more physically active the methods should be. Click below to read more about methods for the broad age bracket you teach:

Other Relevant Criteria for Choosing Bible Teaching Methods

Certainly the above two criteria aren’t the only factors to take into account. But, they are a good starting point. Once teachers find a method that accommodates the above criteria, they can often adapt it to other classroom factors. For example:

  • Finances and available resources might be an issue but you can often make or borrow materials if you don’t currently have the means.
  • Logistics like your room and group size, time, and proximity to other classes enter into the equation but you can often make adjustments like breaking the class into smaller groups, taking turns, relocating for part or all of the session, etc.
  • Openness of students toward different methodology can be increased by slowly introducing changes, figuring out a way to make sharing within a method less threatening, etc.

One Last Criteria when Choosing Bible Teaching Methods

We would be remiss not to consider a final factor in choosing methodology — the teacher’s skill level. It’s being listed last because that certainly can be remedied through training and practice. The only way to gain experience with different kinds of methods is to use them. We may not be able to change all of the other factors to make a method work but we sure can change ourselves by taking time to learn more.

The following resource can help teachers learn how to choose the best Bible teaching methods:

Tips for Choosing & Using Teaching MethodsThe 10 page Tips for Choosing & Using Bible Teaching Methods Worksheet, adapted from the Sharpening Your Bible Teaching Methods Resource, asks questions that help Bible teachers think through 12 factors to take into account when choosing methods. It also provides basic definitions for 57 different methods from which to choose.

The next resource will not only help teachers choose the best Bible teaching methods but also gain an understanding on how to use specific methods:

Sharpening Your Bible Teaching Methods

The 190 page Sharpening Your Bible Teaching Methods Resource not only defines the 57 different methods but also runs each of them through the 12 group factors giving helpful tips to effectively use the methods. In addition, it contains five different charts for a quick overview of what methods work best based on:
– age level (preschool, grade school, teen, adults)
– category (impressional, expressional, group interactive)
– group size (individual, small, mid, large)
– learning objective (knowledge, attitude, behavior)
– time required (under 10 minutes, 10-15, 15-30, 30-60)

Priorities for Time Management

Bible Teachers Time Management
Click image to learn about the Time Management for Teachers Worksheet.


Time management essentials involve setting priorities. Bible verses listed in the following acrostic reference that to which we are to:

be devoted to
seek first
set our minds and heart on

Biblical Priorities Guiding a Bible Teacher’s Priorities

Biblical priorities should be that which guides where Bible teachers use their time and energy, and where they put their focus. What’s most important to God should determine what’s most urgent in our time management.

P – Prayer (Col. 4:2)

  • as opposed to figuring it out on our own
  • need to teach using God’s wisdom and power

R – Relationships (Matt. 22:37-40; Heb. 10:25; Rom. 12:10)

  • as opposed to making tasks or programs most important
  • need to make people more important

I – Inner Life (Jn. 15; Lk. 6:45; 1 Cor. 4:5; Prov. 4:23)

  • as opposed to mere external, outward conformity
  • need to nurture our inner being

O – Optimization (Titus 3:14; Eph. 5:16; Col. 4:5)

  • as opposed to going in fruitless directions
  • need to focus on what’s good and best, making the most of every opportunity

R – Replication (2 Tim. 2:2; Heb. 10:24)

  • as opposed to merely showing up and imparting head knowledge
  • need to focus on discipleship

I – Integrity (Titus 3:8; Phil. 4:6-8)

  • as opposed to justifying half-hearted or non-Christ-like means
  • need to put importance on the process as well as the end result

T – Truth (Acts 2:42; 1 Tim. 4:13)

  • as opposed to worldly wisdom or personal opinions
  • need to keep the Word of God central

I – Intimacy with God (Lk. 10:38-42)

  • as opposed to mere busyness, even in serving
  • need to take time at Jesus’ feet

E – Eternal Good (Matt. 6:33; Col. 3:1-2)

  • as opposed to mere temporal good
  • need to seek first the kingdom, that which counts for eternity

S – Serving Students (1 Cor. 16:15; Phil 2:3-8)

  • as opposed to a self-serving attitude of what you get out of teaching
  • need to follow Christ’s example of humility in serving others and what you give

(The above priorities are not listed in order of importance but rather what fits the letters in an acrostic.)