If you had to make a list of the top 5 sins that Christians struggle with, what would they be?
Envy? Lust? Pride? Gossip? Materialism? What sins do you wrestle with? What would be at the top of your list? Let me suggest a sin that often gets overlooked yet is probably the #1 sin in every Christian’s life.
The sin of hypocrisy is subtle, deceptive, and no respecter of persons. Everyone is vulnerable to hypocrisy, especially religious people. Jesus considered this sin so severe that he made it the topic of his final public sermon and warned those who were involved in it that they risked going to hell. Yikes!
Matthew 23:15 – “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.”
So how can Christians avoid this dangerous sin?
1. Don’t Minimize the Severity of Hypocrisy
The biblical term for hypocrite is derived from the theater and refers to a stage actor who is pretending to be someone else. When this is practiced in daily life it is not simply acting, but lying.
Think about it! We expect actors to act, but we don’t expect people to act in daily life. As we pretend to be someone we aren’t, we are being deceptive, which is lying. It is important we don’t redefine hypocrisy as insecurity, fear, or avoidance because those terms only excuse away sin. Lying is big deal to God because He is truth and Satan is a liar, and when we are hypocrites we are speaking the devil’s language. (c.f. John 8:42-47)
Truth: Recognize Hypocrisy is Lying
2. Be Authentic With Yourself
The most dangerous part about hypocrisy is that it protects and covers up other sins. We can pretend to be humble when we are prideful, we can pretend to be caring when we could care less, and we can pretend to love when we are selfish. In fact, we can even start believing things about ourselves that aren’t true when people start affirming our hypocritical actions.
1 Samuel 16:7b – “… Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
The only way to combat this sin is to recognize when it is happening. This is all about testing your motives and being authentic with yourself. If you aren’t honest with yourself, you won’t be honest with others. Hypocrisy is exposed by asking yourself “why” you are doing something. If you honestly answer the “why” question, you will identify any potential hypocrisy that might be taking place and be able to stop it. To monitor hypocrisy you must monitor your heart.
Matthew 5:8 – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
Truth: Always Ask The “Why” Question
3. Be Authentic With Others
The most deceptive aspect of hypocrisy is that it can make life exciting. People like to act in movies because it is exciting to be admired for pretending to be someone else. The only problem is that movies don’t last. The same is true of hypocrisy. It can be exciting when people admire you for pretending to be someone else. Be aware!! It won’t last.
The way to protect yourself from living movie-to-movie is to practice stepping out of character. When we stop acting and start letting people see us for who we “really” are by sharing our struggles, weaknesses, and/or fears we protect against the cycle of hypocrisy. This can be scary at first, but the more you do it, the easier it gets!
Truth: Practice Being Vulnerable
So let’s honor God by knocking hypocrisy off the top sin spot in our lives.
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