Majoring in Life
Important truths about hypocrisy and how to take positive steps to deal with it.
Scripture passages in this lesson are linked to this page for easy access.
Lesson 15: Burnt Out on Phony Christians
(How to handle hypocrisy, inside and out)
Text written and copyrighted © 2002 by Manfred Koehler. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)
Jim walked into Cal's dorm apartment without knocking, just like he'd done many times before. Friends since junior high, the two guys were tight. Jim searched the room's lounge, finding a mess of books, paper, soda cans, and an empty pizza box. A blanket was strewn across an open futon. Must have had a friend over, Jim guessed. The absence of a pillow on the lumpy futon struck him as strange.
Raiding the mini-fridge for a soda, Jim could hear the shower running. Snapping a Dr. Pepper, he turned to Cal's bedroom. Its door was firmly closed.
Fast asleep, Jim decided. We'll take care of that.
Setting the Dr. Pepper on the floor, Jim quietly turned the knob and opened the door. Just then the shower stopped running. Jim needed to hurry, or this little surprise would be interrupted. Creeping toward the figure buried under the sheets, Jim formed his hands into claws, ready to gouge Cal into consciousness.
But there were a couple of things wrong.
An extra pillow lay discarded on the floor. And the hips under those sheets seemed a little too curved.
The bathroom door opened. Jim snapped his head toward the noise, fingers frozen in space. There stood Cal, in the bedroom doorway, a green bath towel wrapped around his waist.
"C-Cal?" Jim gasped.
"What are you doing here?"
"I'm looking for you."
"Don't you ever knock?" Cal demanded.
Jim stared at his friend, gaping.
The rustling of sheets brought him back to the figure in the bed.
"Cal?" a tiny voice asked. A tangle of blonde hair popped from under the sheets. Long lashes fought to unglue themselves from smudged mascara.
"Ci-Cindy?" Jim asked, barely able to find his voice.
Suddenly Jim felt himself jerked by the arm and dragged from the room. Cal slammed the door shut, kicking over the Dr. Pepper. Snatching the can, he flung it into the steamy bathroom. Aluminum clattered against porcelain, and soda sprayed through the fog.
"Don't you ever come into this apartment again without knocking." Cal's eyes beamed a hatred Jim had never seen before.
His own heart surged with anger. Biting it back, Jim kept his voice low. "What were you doing spending the night alone with Cindy in your apartment?"
"She needed a place to sleep, guy. I slept on the couch. Back off. Now."
Jim paused, heart pounding with doubt. Then he shook his head and dove in. "I don't care if you spent the night across the kitchen table playing Old Maid, this looks bad, Cal. Besides, what's with the extra pillow in your room?"
Cal's face twitched.
"Don't you care what Jesus thinks?" Jim asked, pleading.
The face went cold. "Outta my place, pal." A big thumb pointed the way.
Eyes wide, head down, ears burning, Jim obeyed.
Hamstrung by Hypocrisy
Burnt out by all the hypocrisy you're seeing in the lives of people you thought knew better? You probably have good reason. There's a lot of phony stuff out there, dressed up in people who call themselves Christians.
Some of those people may be your friends.
When you see sin in the hearts of others—and you will—beware. You are in a vulnerable situation. Discouragement will knock on your door. Don't open it. Behind that door, the devil rubs his hands together in evil excitement, rehearsing his sales pitch: "This whole God thing's a farce. It doesn't work. Christianity is full of hypocrites. Give it up."
Don't succumb to discouragement and cynicism. Recognize Satan's lies. Use this painful time to consider some important truths.
Understand this: Not all who call themselves Christians truly are.
“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you’” (Matthew 7:22-23).
People who don't truly know Jesus as Savior haven't got the capacity to live like him. Pretend believers, by definition, will be two-faced. Their religion is just an empty shell.
Rest assured: Jesus is no hypocrite.
With your eyes on people—even good people—you'll eventually be disappointed. Guaranteed. And if you gaze 24/7 at the phoniness of others, you're asking for complete disillusionment. You'll see hypocrisy, real or imagined, absolutely everywhere. That's a black place to be.
Instead look at Jesus (Hebrews 12:2-3). You won't find an ounce of hypocrisy, not a flicker of phoniness. He's always pure, consistent, and appropriate, in both history and his present-day dealings in your life. Jesus Christ, the man who knew no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), is genuine Christianity personified.
Be reminded: You're not alone.
Jesus is painfully aware of hypocrisy, too. He sees its every manifestation far more clearly than your finite eyes can. While on Earth, he dealt with a plague of religious phonies. He called them "whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones" (Matthew 23:27). The history of mankind is crammed with people who claimed to have one set of standards while living out another. There's comfort in knowing you're not alone in your disturbing discoveries. And there's wisdom to be gained from realizing that even though Jesus sees it all—in all its ugliness—he's still patient (Psalm 103:8).
Be sobered: Hypocrisy also lurks within your own soul.
Your own hypocrisy might not be flagrant, but you no doubt have traces of it in your life. Hypocrisy is a subtle sin. Consider these easily-overlooked-but-still-very-ugly faces of phony Christianity:
- Miffed that your roommate never has learned to listen, you cut him off midsentence and let him know.
- Shocked that you witnessed your friend shoplifting, you prepare a Bible study on the subject with pirated software.
- Flustered at the cheapskate Christians who leave you lousy tips, you go about your Christmas shopping with the nagging fear of running into a Salvation Army man with one of those stupid bells.
- Scandalized by the missionary kid who wears sweaters with necklines way too low, you squeeze into your jeans determined to slip her a little advice on modesty.
- Upset that all the Christians in your dorm are mammoth sloths who think nothing of lying fast asleep on a Sunday morning, you go to church unaware of how much you envy them.
Realize that hypocrisy sprouts in your heart long before it blossoms into hypocritical actions. God's Word says that your heart is "deceitful above all things" (Jeremiah 17:9). That means your heart can outdo the devil himself in making you think you're doing God's will when you really aren't. Only God can unravel the tangled motivations of your soul. You desperately need him to reveal to you your own hypocritical tendencies.
Don't Just Stand There
Don't witness hypocrisy at work without taking action. Take some positive steps.
Allow God to reveal to you any phoniness in your own life (Psalm 139:23-24). You can't help a guy with his temper if your own heart is fuming. Confess your hypocrisy to God, get a new attitude, make any necessary apologies, and move on, your gaze firmly fixed on Jesus.
With your conscience clean—no planks in your own eye (Matthew 7:5)—decide whether God would have you help your friend where his life doesn't measure up.
If you sense a green light, ask God for wisdom on issues like approach and timing. Prayerfully think it through.
Then, before you do anything else, get a necessary dose of humility from this verse:
"Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself or you also may be tempted" (Galatians 6:1).
"Gently" is key. Don't go into this with a head full of steam. If you do, you'll just burn your friend, leaving wounds that may never heal (Proverbs 18:19).
Choose a private moment; you don't want to embarrass anyone in front of others. Then say what needs to be said. Find courage in this passage:
"My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20).
Realize that your well-intentioned efforts may draw an angry reaction. You may need to take it further. Matthew 18:15-17 gives some clear direction for difficult situations like this.
Whether or not you feel led to confront the problem, avoid sticking your nose in the air the next time you see that person. Instead pray. Learn from his or her folly. Realize that if it wasn't for God's grace, you might be in a worse state. And make your relationship with Jesus so real and attractive that your erring friend will want to come back and join you.