— 57 —
Why are there so many hypocrites
in the church?

This is an age old criticism against the church that some use as an excuse to justify their lack of participation.

A hypocrite (Greek, HUPOKRITES) is a play-actor, a pretender, one who outwardly goes through motions which are insincere. Hypocrisy is a genuine problem that exists and often affects religious people. Jesus warned of the consequences of hypocrisy and described its symptoms to the Pharisees in His day. "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness" (Matt. 23:27-28).

The Pharisees were a sect of the Jewish hierarchy. They made up the body of the religious leaders of that day. They went to the daily temple prayers religiously, gave their tithes and offerings, were avid students of the scriptures, kept the Sabbath day, and followed the commandments and teachings of Moses to the letter. They had the appearance of being very religious and upstanding Jews. Yet Jesus said that they were "diseased" and rotten inside, full of hypocrisy and iniquity. He described them as "whitewashed tombs," or "death covered with a coat of paint." "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:20).

Indeed there are hypocrites in the church, but maybe not as many as some think. From my experience, most people who attend a Bible preaching church, do so because they are sincerely trying to draw closer to God. However, there's another problem the church contends with that's every bit as bad, if not worse than hypocrisy. It's called judgmentalism. It's a critical "witch hunt" attitude to find fault and blame people as hypocrites.

Many sincere people, though imperfect and immature, have been falsely judged as hypocrites. To illustrate this, several years ago in the Midwest, an unknown gentleman began attending a small church on a frequent basis. He would always be seen sitting conspicuously in the rear with his hands firmly tucked in his pockets. As the months passed, people began to take note that he seemed rather unfriendly and peculiar. He declined from shaking anyone's hands, never put anything in the offering plate, and didn't participate by clapping during songs or raising his hands in worship. At the altar service, everyone came and knelt in prayer, except the same man. The rumors began to emerge. "He's probably not a Christian — certainly not a very spiritual one," remarked one critical parishioner. "He just another hypocrite who goes to church," said another prudish woman.

One day the pastor was driving through an unfamiliar neighborhood, when he noticed the same gentleman standing in front of his house, retrieving mail from his mailbox. He thought he'd stop and say hello, but as he approached the fellow, who was dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, the pastor noticed that his legs and hands were grossly disfigured. Upon recognizing the minister, the man became embarrassed and shoved his hand into his pockets. Realizing that he had already been seen, He explained, "Guess you caught me. I was badly burned in a fire years ago. I'm ashamed of my appearance and just didn't want anybody to know."

The pastor discovered that the mysterious man was a very humble, sincere believer, but feared rejection and was too embarrassed to expose his disfigured hands in church. His scarred knees were too painful to bend and kneel at the altar. As he drove away, the pastor thought to himself, "What an injustice has been served to this poor guy. He needed the encouragement and acceptance by those in our church, but instead, has been belittled and misjudged by critical people who didn't know all the facts."

This is why the Lord tells us not to judge one another. It is not possible to render an accurate judgment about anyone without knowing all the facts. Appearances don't tell us everything about a person. Jesus said, "Do not judge according to appearance..." (John 7:24). When a judge hears a court case, he looks carefully at all the evidence and weighs all the testimonies. Only when he has considered all the facts of evidence, can he render a fair judgment. Only God is qualified to be our judge, because only He knows what's in our hearts. He knows our true motives, our intents, and has all the facts. God told Samuel, "...the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Sam. 16:7). Judgment is something that God has reserved exclusively for Himself. Whenever a person judges another, he is attempting to sit on God's throne. He is presuming himself to be God — both judge and jury (James 4:11).

When I was a new Christian I noticed a fellow in our church who wore a button on his lapel that displayed the letters: PBPWMGINFWMY. Curious, I asked him what they meant, and he said, they stand for "Please Be Patient With Me. God Is Not Finished With Me Yet." This was a clever way to remind people to not be judgmental of a Christian "under construction."

Unfortunately, many believers have fallen to the judgmentalism of others. Without knowing the contents of their heart, some have sharply criticized the faults and weakness of their brethren, or ridiculed them with rumors and gossip. We are warned against causing such stumbling-blocks of judgmentalism. "Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way" (Rom. 14:13). Those who oppress their brethren this way, who cause their departure from the faith, will face the stern recompense of almighty God. "Then He said to the disciples, It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones" (Luke 17:1-2).

Every organization, including the church, will have some who are insincere or who are there for ulterior motives, as Jesus suggested with his reference to the tares found in the wheat (Matt. 13:14-30). But don't ever let that hold you back from your enthusiasm for the church. My pastor once told me, "Never let a hypocrite stand between you and God, otherwise they'll be standing closer to God than you are." The person who has flaws but is humbly trying to serve God, is far better off than the person who shakes their finger in judgment and does nothing.

This article is from the book, What People Ask About the Church, authored and copyrighted © by Dr. Dale A. Robbins, 1990-2015, and is a publication of Victorious Publications, Grass Valley, CA - Nashville, TN. Unless otherwise stated, all scripture references were taken from The New King James Bible, © Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982. You may download this article for personal use as long as you retain credit to the author. Obtain permission before reproducing copies for any reason, by filling out our simple permission form. Many of our writings are also available as free pdf tri-fold pamphlets, which can be downloaded for reproduction from our Online Catalog. For media reproduction rights, or to obtain quantities of this title in other formats, email us.