Hypocrisy is so maddening to us, even hypocrites abhor hypocrites. It’s all a part of the neurosis in which we now all live. How profound our masks. We’re all attractions with platforms nowadays and it would be an unprofitable conversation to discuss the benefits versus the destruction caused by social media. Most would, at the very least, agree that our new public square can result in some acting. How weighty the mask becomes for one’s self is the concern. It seems a horrible tragedy to not seek to get out of what almost seems to be a setup for hypocrisy.
I say, “mask,” because the word hypocrite is rooted in the Greek word hypokrites, which means “stage actor; one who puts on a mask.” And it’s all a completely new phenomenon. No, I jest, of course. We have enticing and convenient avenues in this time for it but the subject of hypocrisy dates back, way back. Jesus talked about hypocrisy so often and spent most of that time in it on the self seeking aspect. So, while there are layers to hypocrisy, I’m focusing on just this one in this writing, the one Jesus focused upon the most. Praying and giving for the applause of the people compelled Him to rebuke it all publicly. And when He said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean,” He wasn’t gentle when he said that they had bones of the dead. Meek and mild? Not when it came to souls. Not when it came to eternity.
Because we all are hypocrites in some measure, filtering out aspects of our patchiness, we can all connect on the subject. How chief our identity to others becomes to ourselves and how crucial the need for applause becomes to our fundamental soul is kind of important. But, without the self realization that one is a hypocrite, one cannot live in a genuine state of love. That is, “Without the proper diagnosis, as Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones often said, there can be no prescription for relief offered.”
My mission is more to speak of what I’ve concluded about hypocrisy and the salient results in my pilgrimage. If it prompts anyone, at any time now or in the future, even just one person, to consider it worthy to plunge into the waters of discerning hypocrisy in themselves and ultimately recognizing the folly of it, my pursuit will have been accomplished. You won’t eradicate the hypocrisy of others. While we should be able to recognize it and thus, enable ourselves solace in knowledge, the task of attempting to obliterate hypocrisy in every hypocrite you encounter would be daunting.
The effort to unfold hypocrisy in ourselves and identify hypocrisy at large also allows us greater appreciation for clear examples of honest-to-goodness acts of sincerity. So, let’s start there.
Billy Graham was a wildly popular evangelical, of whom no biography is likely necessary. His celebrity status is well known among movie stars, presidents, kings, queens and popes. He even, eventually, was honored with a star on the legendary Hollywood Walk of Fame.
So, let’s be frank. An aspiring pastor, seeking any modicum of notoriety would surely want a connection with Billy Graham. Enter Dr. Lloyd Jones, a doctor and minister of Westminster Chapel in London who was asked by Graham in 1963 to chair the first World Congress on Evangelism. It was an ideal opportunity for Dr. Lloyd-Jones to join forces with an unmatched evangelical superstar.
But, Dr Lloyd-Jones was opposed to Graham’s acceptance of essential matters of salvation that many of the religious leaders held of whom he had on stage, accompanying him on his crusades. He also believed the invitation system was a source of mass-delusion and false conversion.
Could that have possibly been enough for Dr. Lloyd Jones to walk away from Graham’s elevated standing and support from secular media, his very name that had become a household word, and the lofty place in evangelicalism that he was offering? Indeed, it was. It was plenty enough. His sight was not on men and how they viewed him. A little leaven is hardly worth the worry? Not a chance. I’m grateful for ambassadors like Lloyd Jones.
And, there are so many lights that lay incandescent throughout the world, we need not want for examples. It is good to have models to ponder so I cited one that has served me in remembering the virtues of honor and loyalty.
So, how do we probe this when we’re examining ourselves to gauge whether we are hypocrites in the way Jesus described it so often? I think it deserves our attention because it mattered so much to Jesus. The byproduct is freedom. If you desire to please the Lord and want freedom for yourself, then take the time, especially because hypocrisy is one of the last things any of us suspect in ourselves.
Ask yourself, for some time, at least, the motivation behind your moves. No, really do this. Don’t rush through. After some time of doing so, you may not need to be as intentional because you will have learned that we’re all hypocrites by nature but God has equipped us with His Spirit and His Word to be less so. At last, you’ll be able to relax your desire for the endorsement, confirmation and applause of the people. Please Him! Love people.
Have you ever come across a Facebook post of someone serving food at a soup kitchen? Feeding a homeless guy on a bench? Taking a meal to someone that is ill? These are all beautiful acts of love. Why not publicize them? What would Jesus say about it? Well, He said this:
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
No ambiguity there. But, what about less charitable, every day moves we make with one another? What’s the plumb line? Ask yourself, because you really do know, why am I doing this particular thing this way? What’s in it for you?
If the answer has anything to do with the glory of man, take five. Is there a way to love and do the exact same thing all for the glory of God? Loving one another does bring glory to God. The Word addresses people who love the glory of man more than the glory that comes from God. It seems it’s “those others,” when we read scripture but it could be you and me.
A year ago I deactivated my Facebook account. I intend to go back on because I love all of the beauty of edifying others, connecting and lifting. I won’t do so, however, until I’ve checked myself thoroughly for self grandeur on that forum. Oh, I really did want to love people and I truly did love people. But, I just couldn’t help throwing in my highlight reel. The accolades were like a drug. And, that’s idolatry.
When I began examining myself I analogized it to a body cleanse. Ridding myself of physical toxins takes discipline and discernment. It’s hard work. Emptying out hypocrisy in my life was taxing. The almost supernatural result from going through the process, though, is this unearthly ability to spot it, for one thing, but most importantly, not having the weight of caring about what the world thinks, with the manifestation of stronger compassion for slugs like me and a growing, stronger love for God.
I consider in 100 years, which is a short period in grand history, everyone I know will be dead. Everyone. If my short stay here is spent wondering who thinks what of me, and they’ll all be dead within a very short time, what folly is that? Don’t get me wrong. I do want people to say nice things about me at my funeral. I want to have left ripples in their hearts. I want to have left an imprint on the kingdom. I do care that I have loved well. I hope that because I have honored God all of that has happened ever more genuinely as I learn. All the while people pay tribute, I don’t want anyone secretly harboring thoughts of my hypocrisy.
I’m not hypocrisy free. Yet, even so, having come this far has been transformative. The Lord is working. I tremble when I recall how important the opinions of others mattered. Why do we choose to live thus? I did ask myself if I was writing this piece for the applause of people. Happily, I can even laugh about such a thought. I don’t have the first clue of how to harness readers on a blog, though I have heard there are ways. I really just want one person, maybe even one of my granddaughters, at some point in the future to use these words as a catalyst for change. Thus, I’m clear, no hypocrisy.
This is only the beginning of the story of hypocrisy. We may slice our cake differently, but know this. We all mask.