The origin of the word “hypocrite” comes from a word meaning “actor.”
And what is an actor? An actor is someone who pretends to be someone he is not. He is not who he seems to be. Sometimes we even hear or say, “He is a great actor,” or “the acting was not good.”
Famous awards are given for “best actor” and “best actress.” People go to acting schools to learn how to portray other people. It is a skill that may come naturally or be learned.
Life is full of acting. Everyone does it. Some more than others. Children enjoy pretending. It is cute and usually quite harmless. It is just part of being a child.
Grown-up pretending is a far more serious thing.
One of the excuses I have often heard when talking to unbelievers about Jesus Christ and the gospel is “The church is full of hypocrites” or “Christians are all hypocrites.” They think that settles the issue. It is a convenient excuse to avoid talking about Christ, the Bible, their sin or need of salvation.
So often when a real Christian hears these words it sets us back. Why? Because we know there are hypocrites in every church and not everyone who says or thinks he is a Christian really is. It’s just a fact.
As Christians we also know what hypocrites we were before coming to Christ and the battles we have every day not to be hypocritical and to live and think in ways that consistently please our Lord.
The blind and crazy thing about this objection about hypocrisy is that unbelievers seem to think they themselves are not hypocrites, as if they don’t play the role every day in their own lives, in their jobs, in their homes, in their conversations, on the internet or whatever. No one portrays themselves as they really are.
How would you feel if someone knew all your thoughts and motives? How embarrassing and devastating that would be for any of us. I could guess at your thoughts and you could guess at mine, but as we learn in 1 Corinthians 2:11, “For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of the person?”
There is someone who knows all our thoughts and everything about them.
David prays in Psalm 139:1-4 “O, Lord, you have searched me and know me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, you Lord, know it altogether.”
Later in verse 12 he prays, “Even the darkness is not dark to you, the night is as bright as the day, the darkness is as light to you.”
What do you think of a God like that?
Some of David’s responses were: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” (v.6) “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast the sum of them!” (v. 17)
The most interesting thing about that is what David asked of God at the end of the psalm. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts. And see if there be any grievous way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” (vs 23,24) This is something any Christian should be able to pray because of our relationship with our heavenly Father.
The Holy God of the universe knows all about hypocrites. He knows who are living their lives as actors (either in churches pretending they are Christians or outside just pretending). He knows who seek to live transparent lives, recognizing their own hypocrisy and praying for God’s grace to forgive and help them day by day.
When judgment day comes, none of us will be asked if there were hypocrites in the church, but whether we are hypocrites will surely matter.