Religious Hypocrisy: What it is and How to Deal With it


Religious Hypocrisy: What it is and How to Deal With it

As a general rule Religious Hypocrisy surrounds us in life. It was abundant in Jesus Life, it plagues the Simple Christian, the church Leader, every preacher, pastor, or reverend. Fueled by envy, prestige, ego, lust, desire to appear to be something down deep we are not.

Religious Hypocrisy

Religious hypocrites are people who criticize others for things they do and claim religious standards to which they don’t adhere. In Matthew 6:5, Jesus talked of hypocrites who loved to pray publicly to show people how religious and holy they were. He then said that they had received their reward in full. By this, He meant that their reward was being seen by others, and got no reward from God. In today’s article, we will look at religious hypocrisy and how to deal with it.

What is the Biblical Definition of Hypocrisy?

Jesus gave us a good definition of a hypocrite in Matthew 23:27. He was referring to the Pharisees. He said they are whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean on the inside.

Biblical hypocrisy is when people pretend to be holy and righteous on the outside but are full of sin on the inside. They want to show others how religious they are, but they don’t practice the things they preach.

What is a Biblical Hypocrite?

Religious Hypocrisy – A biblical hypocrite is one who wants to show others how spiritual he or she is but is not a godly person on the inside. There is a man called Simon who was a sorcerer.

When he heard Philip preach the gospel, he believed and was baptized. But when He saw the apostles laying hands on people and they received the Holy Spirit, he offered them money so they could give him this power. Peter rebuked him and said that he was full of bitterness and sin (Acts 8:9-24).

Simon had fooled people into thinking that he was truly born again, yet we see from his request that he wanted to use the power of the Holy Spirit for his selfish gain. He was a hypocrite who was found out because he thought that he could buy the power of God.

Some examples of Religious Hypocrisy

The Gospels give us examples of hypocrites and the things they did that showed they were pretending to be godly yet they were not.

In Mathew 6:2 we see religious hypocrisy by those who give to the needy and announce it with trumpets to be honored by others. These are people who are seeking the praises of men and don’t give out of a pure heart. They are not out to please God but men so that others can think highly of them. We see such people today who carry their cameras with them all over and want to show how much they give to others. Sometimes they invade the privacy of others in the name of helping them to show the world how good they are.

Religious hypocrisy is seen in those who want to criticize others all the time yet they forget they too have their shortcomings. They want to appear to be holier than others. Matthew 7:5 says such hypocrites should first take the plank out of their eyes then they will clearly see the speck in their brother’s eye.

The Pharisees were religious hypocrites who did not believe in Jesus and did not want others to do so. In Matthew 22:18, Jesus saw their evil intent and said to them, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?” Religious hypocrites will use the Bible to trap you, not to learn more about the Word of God. Their intent is not to teach others the Word of God but to use it to trap or condemn them.

Religious hypocrites focus on religious practices to show that they have cleansed themselves yet they are full of greed and self-indulgence (Matthew 23:25). They want to show others that they are godlier than others because of their religious practice but in their hearts, they don’t care about the things of God. They only care about what brings them pleasure.

Is Being a Hypocrite a Sin?

Hypocrisy is a sin, and we see this in Matthew 24:51. It says, “He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” If hypocrites will end up in eternal condemnation, it means that they are living in sin. Being a hypocrite means that one is pretending to be godly when one is not.

Hypocrisy in the church today?

It is not an uncommon thing to hear the charges of hypocrisy at church. I’ve even heard it said that hypocrisy is rampant in the church today. Is this true? How prevalent is this problem? It may well depend on who you ask, but what can we say for sure?

But before we try to answer these questions, we’ll need to understand what hypocrisy is and how it differs from other problems.

What is Hypocrisy Anyway?

When we think of the word hypocrite, we immediately get an image in our minds of a Pharisee or someone who puts on a show for others while holding some sinful behavior in their heart. There’s a lot of that behavior today, and we can no doubt point to plenty of people who fit this description. But is hypocrisy the only thing going on with those individuals?

Interestingly enough, a hypocrite in Greek means an actor or pretender under an assumed character.

At its heart, true hypocrisy involves acting one way while believing another way. For example, if I said that I believed smoking was sinful, but then lit a cigarette behind the church building after service, this would be true hypocrisy. It’s an actor or pretender under an assumed character because my outward behavior doesn’t match up to my inward belief and commitment.

And digging deeper into the heart of the matter reveals that while the behavior of this person may look like hypocrisy to us on the outside, his or her heart is actually even more problematic. If I truly believed that smoking was sinful and yet lit a cigarette anyway, then my heart is sinful – not just my actions. It seems likely that if we asked him why he did it, he might say because he was addicted, or that he simply couldn’t quit. In other words, his heart would be revealed to actually be full of sin in a way that is even deeper than just the act of smoking itself. Whether through addiction or some other issue, something else is going on in this individual’s life, and it’s probably not good news.

The church is full of hypocrites, and they are identified by their fruit. They want others to see how godly they are, yet their words and deeds betray them. The Bible shows us some of those who are hypocrites in the church.

Jesus warned us in Matthew 7:15 about false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ferocious wolves. These are people who pretend to give us prophetic words and claim to know what God is saying about our lives but they are lying. Once they gain access to our lives, they wreak havoc, and in many instances they make people lose their faith. They pretend to be part of the flock but they are out to devour God’s children.

We have seen pastors who manipulate their congregations into giving a lot of money, which they use for personal gain. Many of them buy material possessions while their congregations languish in poverty. They give them false promises and keep them holding on to false hope.

We have also seen many church leaders exposed for their secret sins. They appear to be holy and righteous, but in secret, they indulge in the very things they preach against. It is only when a scandal breaks out that others discover what they have been doing in secret.

There are many hypocrites in church but we can rest in the hope that God will expose them so that others can see what they are up to.

Causes of Hypocrisy in the Church

The word hypocrite comes from the Greek words upper (over) and krites (judge). So somebody who is a hypocrite judges others while acting as if they are above being judged. In some instances the hypocrisy of a person who claims to be a Christian can lead those around them astray from their faith, thus leading to sin.

In this article we will talk about what causes hypocrisy in the church and how it might come about:

Hypocrisy can come when a person has ulterior motives for their behavior, such as personal glory or gain. This often happens in politics and it is called hypocrisy because the politician will say something to get what he wants while pretending that he doesn’t want it at all. For example, A preacher says that we shouldn’t drink alcohol but then goes out to the bar every night. The preacher says that drinking alcohol is wrong because it can lead to all sorts of sin, but at this point in his life, he doesn’t want to stop getting drunk because he enjoys it too much. He does however have ulterior motives for wanting everyone in his community to abstain from drinking alcohol so that they will look up to him as a man of God.

This sort of behavior is very common in the church, with many parishioners claiming that they don’t do certain things or go certain places so that others will admire them and think more highly of them. When people have ulterior motives for their faith it can be dangerous because it can lead them to sin by not taking certain precautions for fear of ruining their reputation.

One example is when somebody abstains from sex before marriage because they “want to serve God” but in reality, it’s because they want others to admire them or think that they are too holy to do such a thing. When people have ulterior motives for their faith, often leading them to sin is forgiven because they are trying to make themselves look like a better person than they really are.

Hypocrisy can also occur when somebody knows the right way to do something but fails to apply what he knows.

For example; there might be someone who preaches on Friday night about how we need to help the poor, and then on Sunday morning, he will tell the congregation about how he is so blessed. If someone knows what to do to be closer to God but doesn’t follow through with applying what they know, it becomes hypocritical because they are not being truthful when they say that they don’t need things in life.

A parishioner might say that you should be content with what you have and not want anything more, but might be spending all his money on luxurious items for himself. If you know how to stay away from sin but continue to fall into that sin anyway then it is hypocritical because you should know better by now yet still choose to do the same thing over and over again.

When somebody feels as though they are better than others it can cause them to be hypocritical because they think that they deserve certain privileges. There might be a person who goes out partying every night but if his best friend were to say he is going to go home and read the Bible, this selfish man would probably mock his friend for being so “boring.”

The one reason that this person might be so selfish is that he thinks that he deserves to have a good time every night because he has worked hard for his money. If you think you are better than others it can cause hypocrisy in your life because oftentimes the only reason why you have things goes back to the fact that somebody else doesn’t.

When people are content with their lives and feel at peace they don’t tend to be hypocritical, but when people are wanting more out of life it can lead them to sin. There might be a man who is content with his wife and family and feels like he has everything that he needs; this man wouldn’t normally feel the need to go look at pornography because he already has what he needs.

But if this man were to suddenly feel the need for more in his life, perhaps because of an unfulfilling career, it can lead him to look at pornography which is wrong. When people are not content with their lives they will strive for more but might take shortcuts to get what they want instead of working hard for it.

When people are striving to be the best that they can be sometimes they put too much pressure on themselves, causing them to become hypocritical because they feel guilty when they fail. There might be a man who believes in positive thinking and talks about how great his life is all day long but if he were to not wake up on Monday morning then he would feel that his life is a failure and beat himself up about it.

This man might say that everything in life should be taken at face value but deep down inside, if things don’t go the way he believes they should go, he’ll feel as though he has failed. If you never want to fail or disappoint yourself then it can cause you to be hypocritical because oftentimes when people fail they must learn how to get back up and not give up.

Final Thoughts

Religious hypocrisy is more common than we think, but we can pray and ask God to remove it from our midst. Those who are exposed as religious hypocrites can be removed from their leadership positions in the church. Those who repent and turn over a new leaf can be restored after undergoing counseling. We must be watchful so that we are not deceived by those who are religious hypocrites. 

Or that we have become this way ourselves

Greg Gaines

Father / Grandfather / Minister / Missionary / Deacon / Elder / Author

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