Every person has a story! Every question someone asks has something significant backing it up. It’s important for us to realize this. Therefore, the charge of hypocrisy may very well have another root cause behind that charge that goes well beyond the surface.
Take a look at the scribes and Pharisees who presented this woman to Jesus. They did this trying to test Jesus. One of the biggest roots of others playing the hypocrite is, ironically enough, what these hypocritical Pharisees were doing: they were trying to justify their actions—as we all tend to do. Only in this case they were using the Scriptures.
The Pharisees brought this woman, and were using the Bible as leverage to try to get Jesus to make a mistake and, in turn, to leverage it for their own power. Why? They were losing influence (for good or for ill) over the people. They quote Scripture: “Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.” Yes, the Scripture did say this! Yes, consequences existed for this action.
But Jesus begins to dig to the root of the hypocrisy! He bent down and began writing in the sand—what he wrote, we really do not know. Speculations abound, but they continued to press! They just couldn’t wait to see what Jesus would do.
So he responds in a way that dug deepest to the root: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (8:7). Here, Jesus does something amazing:
- he does not invalidate the woman’s sin–Christ maintains the consistency of what His Father decreed;
- he keeps the law—but then he puts it back on the ones accusing and makes them take an inventory on their own condition, and thus exposing their inconsistency (read: hypocrisy).
When we are ministering and listening to others in a conversation about the faith, we need to penetrate and get to the root of the issue. In this case, the Pharisees found themselves quite satisfied and justified in their actions—yet they spent so much time monitoring themselves that they spent little time monitoring the man in the mirror.
Here, Jesus deals with the hypocrites in the church using the Bible to justify their sinful actions. Yet, don’t we often see those outside of the church using the charge of hypocrisy to justify those same selfish actions? “You don’t practice what you preach–see? This Christianity business is just a sham. Until you are perfectly consistent, we won’t give you a hearing.” The fact is for many, even if we were ‘perfectly consistent,’ the root issue stands: we want to live exactly how we want to live and be our own authority,our own god.
Some find themselves or even lob the charge due to fear. Look with me at Galatians 2:11-14:
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?”
Our hypocrisy comes from fear—and the charge of hypocrisy may be backed by fear as well. If we as believers are hypocrites in this area, it’s because we have in mind the things of man rather than the things of God. Peter was content being with the Gentiles until the crew from James arrived—then he snapped back into the mindset of his Jewish upbringing of remaining separate.
Another is pain. On Wednesday night, we looked at Psalm 13, where the Psalmist asks:
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
For so many, they are in a dark valley, depressed, feeling angry or even abandoned by God in their lives. As author Randy Newman rightly says:
“Because they can’t punch Him in the eye, they take their potshots at us. Someone comes to us with depression or loneliness, we come back with, ‘Well, the Bible says God is there. Where is your faith?” Someone comes to us down because of an abortion they had and are sorting through guilt and despair, and we say, “Why, don’t you know what the Bible says about that?” Then the hypocrisy charge comes about because of the pain inflicted by people who know the truth, and speak it, but are not loving enough to spend time to get to know the person.
This lady caught in adultery received the pain of those hypocrites because she was merely a pawn to make themselves feel better about themselves. They possessed truth–but it was distorted by their own fallenness. No one can understand the spiritual aspect of the Scriptures without the Spirit who gives us the access to that aspect. Those in the secular mindset have their eyes only focused on the here and now–relying only on what they can see and experience. Yet, these same folks come along and trust in their history books, walking by faith that those upon whom they rely are speaking the truth. But it turns out that truth for many is simply truth that they want to hear and agree with. But it’s really just a group of people having the same basic opinions enjoying each other’s company and feeding each other’s worldview.
Say what you will about the Scriptures, they do not tell us what we naturally want to hear. They tell us that we are all hypocrites, and we have to deal with a historical Jesus that so cut us to the core that it convicts believers and (for whatever reason) bothers the unbelievers so badly that they need to scream figuratively to the top of their lungs that it’s not so!
As the risen Son of God, Jesus is in a position as holy God to keep God’s law perfectly and consistently, and to be as perfect man to die as a substitute in atonement for our sin. The church will not always get it right. You will not always get it right. Get down to the root issue of your charge of hypocrisy. And there you will find Christ, telling you, “Neither do I condemn you–go and sin no more!”