Dangers of Hypocrisy
Kasule Jacob cautions us that hypocrisy hides the truth from people seeking it. He exhorts us to stop the pretense and be real. He gently reminds us that we need to be mindful of how we live because whether we believe it or not, we are causing an impact in people’s lives.
The world is full of hypocrites, and many people are trying to live a double life. Such kind of life is suited only for two-face, a fictional supervillain who tormented Gotham city and had to be stopped by Batman. According to the early 13th century definition, hypocrisy is referred to as the claim or pretense of having beliefs, standards, qualities, behaviors, virtues, motivations, etc which one does not actually possess.
The unfortunate part is seeing this lifestyle lived in the body of Christ. If it is any type of life, hypocrisy is the worst kind of life to ever exist. Those who do so risk losing themselves in the process. The Bible has had a lot to say about this topic, it is full of warnings against hypocrites; Jesus pronounced seven different judgments against the scribes and Pharisees because of the same vice (Matthew 23:1-36).
Apostle Paul had to confront Peter over living a “two-face” life. The encounter between Peter and Paul gives us four things that help in understanding the danger of hypocrisy and why believers should stay clear from it. Let us read it and find out:
Galatians 2:11-14 (ESV)
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” .
Let's now consider the four dangers of Hypocrisy from this passage:
1. HYPOCRISY MAKES YOU LIVE A DOUBLE LIFE (V12)
Peter had no problem sharing life with the Gentile believers in Antioch until his fellow Jews arrived. He did not want the Jews to know and see him associating with the Gentiles. Peter was living a double life,the Gentiles’ way of life, and the Jewish strict way of living. He was switching hats of whatever favoured his circumstance and Paul had to rebuke him. James wrote in his letter, “A double minded person is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8)
Hypocrisy is among the list of things for us to put away if we are going to grow in Salvation (1 Peter 2:1). I guess the question is, what kind of life are you living? Are there things you are hiding? Are there certain hats you put on to make yourself comfortable, but you would not want those who really know you to find you wearing?
“The only people who are mad at you for speaking the truth are those people who are living a lie. Keep speaking the truth."
2. HYPOCRISY MAKES YOU LIVE IN FEAR (V12-13a)
There is an interesting word of wisdom from the book of Proverbs. It says, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe” (Proverbs 29:25). Peter had allowed the opinions of his fellow Jews grip him so tightly that he could not enjoy the freedom Christ had given. Peter could not proclaim before his fellow Jews the great things God had done among the Gentiles, and why was that? It's because he was afraid.
He was afraid people would discover his pretentious life, he was afraid his fellow Jews would not accept him again. He was afraid so he had to withdraw from his brothers and sisters in Christ, those who shared the same bond of love like the brothers from Jerusalem he was afraid of. Living a hypocritical life makes us miss out on what God has to offer for those who are free in Christ.
“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” - Les Brown.
Jesus in speaking to his disciples about fear said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Is it not true that we have our fears misplaced most of the time ? Let me ask a question, Who has your fears? I think we so often live in so much fear of man than we are of God.
“If we feel we have to change our Christian beliefs to match those of our companions, we are on dangerous grounds.”
Compromise is an important element in getting along with others, but we should never compromise the truth of God’s Word. The Word of God should be a “Non-Negotiable” non-debatable thing. If you are beginning to debate whether to believe the Bible or not, whether you should obey God’s Word or man then it is time you checked your biblical conviction because, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
3. HYPOCRISY LEADS OTHERS ASTRAY (V13b)
“And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.”
We need to be watchful how we live, our action might either draw people to Christ or push them away. Just imagine, that even Barnabas was led astray. This guy was a mature believer, he is the one who took Paul in when all were afraid of him; he is the man we hear the Holy Spirit saying, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I called them” (Acts 13:2).
If Barnabas was led astray because certain believers were acting hypocritically, how many more people were probably led astray? If we are living this way, how many people might end up being led astray because of our lifestyle? We preach the gospel not just by the words that come out of our mouth, but much more by how we live out the truth we profess. May a soul never be lost to hell because we were living as hypocrites.
“...let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father in Heaven” - Matthew 5:16.
4. HYPOCRISY MAKES YOU LIVE CONTRARY TO THE GOSPEL (V14)
But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the Gospel,..
In their attempt to please both sides (the Gentiles and Jews) and live for themselves, Peter and some of his fellow Jews had wandered off from the truth. This is how easy it is to drift from the truth of the Scripture. It begins with one lie, one compromise, one pretense, one twisted Scripture, and before you know it, it has become a way of life. May we constantly check ourselves, constantly soak ourselves in the Word of God, but much more allow the truth we already know to bring the change God intends to bring in our lives.
“You cannot live the life you want, when you want, and how you want it, and still be in line with the Gospel.”
Peter learned his lesson the hard way, but the greatest thing about his life was that he was a repentant man, he was a man who listened. He later on wrote to believers who were scattered throughout Asia Minor about spiritual growth and the danger that poses as a threat to it. He includes hypocrisy among the things believers should put away from their lives. He writes, “So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow into salvation - 3 If you indeed have tasted that the Lord is Good” (1 Peter 2:1 - 3).
Hypocrisy is dangerous because it hides the truth from people seeking it. As a result, it makes people believe in a lie because they who live to please the flesh live contrary to the Gospel. Let's be mindful of how we live on this earth because believe it or not, you are causing an impact in people’s lives. Only, be sure you are causing a positive impact; an impact that is turning sinners into saints because they are drawn to Jesus Christ. Let us stop the pretense and be real.
Kasule Jacob (MTS) is a Bible teacher with East African Outreach Pastor Training Center and an Adjunct lecturer at Uganda Baptist Seminary.
Photo by Adnan Khan on Unsplash