Confessions: The Church is full of Hypocrites

Matthew 23:1-12

It seems this week was like most in the games in Washington and it has nothing to do with the Huskies in Washington or the Redskins in D.C. To make matters worse the news media feeds on it. Not only do they feed on it, they feed it, hoping for a national scandal to make themselves appear relevant. Whether it's Afghanistan, speeches to children, health care, Obama, Joe Wilson, Van Jones, Rush I thought these political events a fitting context for our scriptural text about hypocrisy.

“Listen to what Jesus says about these politicians (in his day they were called Pharisees): "They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them." Now what did Jesus mean? Simply this: The Pharisees made laws. They demanded that the common person follow those laws. But they themselves found ways to get around those laws. Get it? They were not willing to carry the heavy loads they demanded everyone else carry. In a word: Hypocrisy.(Sermon: “Confronting Hypocrisy with Humility” by Brett Blair)”

When I was growing up there were expectations set up for us in school and in Sunday School – sometimes the two even overlapped. You got A's for knowing it all in school and if you memorized the right verses you got a gold star on the chart in Sunday School. It went down hill for me starting in first grade. You see, our church had a community TV station and services were shown especially when the kids choir sang. Sure enough, my escapades got broadcast across the town and I heard about it Monday morning = again and again.

That slowly ate at me. Later as I sat around those who earned their gold stars every week – the same ones looking down on others for not measuring up – I got sick of it – church is full of hypocrites I said to myself – so I dropped out of Sunday School.

Jesus always has a way of spotlighting the key point: we must practice what we preach. Just having the right doctrine, teaching the right stuff or knowing all there is to know isn't enough. Leaders and Christians must live by the advice they give. You can't love the sinner and the sinner either if you don't show acts of love. “If you tell people to build a home on a solid foundation but then use cheap nails in the construction of your own home, then you are a hypocrite.(Brett Blair)”

Even in the earliest days of the church, the ugly head of hypocrisy crept into the life of Peter, one of Jesus' best friends. It is Paul, the writer of most of the New Testament, who calls Peter out for his act of discrimination toward other Christians (Galatians 2:11-14). In chapter 2 of James' letter, he cautions the church of treating rich people better than poor – being hypocrites in their actions. I confess – the church is full of hypocrites...but then Todd Layton shared with me something Pastor Med Roach is fond of saying: “There isn't a better place for hypocrites than church.”

Robert Redford was walking one day through a hotel lobby. A woman saw him and followed him to the elevator. "Are you the real Robert Redford?" she asked him with great excitement. As the doors of the elevator closed, he replied, "Only when I am alone!”

The reality of things we fail to grasp (or we choose to ignore) is this truth – we're all hypocrites in some form or other. The saying there are no atheisists in fox holes expresses one side of this as does the Christian who does not see Jesus in the needy around them. Jesus said, we'd say, “ 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or as a stranger or in need of clothes or sick or in prison and didn't help you?' "He will answer them, 'I can guarantee this truth: Whatever you failed to do for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you failed to do for me.' (Matthew 25:44-45, GW)

Jesus didn't back down from passing judgement or saying the hard things along the way. Jesus called the Church to do the same but he did give one stipulation and it is this that should set the church apart for it is the answer to the issue of is humility. The person who is greatest among you will be your servant. Whoever honors himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be honored. (Mat 23:11-12)

These actions alone do not put us right with God though – faith in Jesus is what puts things right. Paul made that clear when he wrote to the Galatian church and the church at Crossroads: “we know that a person is put right with God only through faith in Jesus Christ, never by doing what the Law requires. We, too, have believed in Christ Jesus in order to be put right with God through our faith in Christ, and not by doing what the Law requires. For no one is put right with God by doing what the Law requires.” (Galatians 2:16)

But a follower of Jesus Christ – A church that acts with humility – that humbles themselves – that serves the poor, the sick, the prisoner, the stranger – these actions – doing what Jesus did - will give people the reason to rethink church. Jesus leveled the playing field for the world – greatest should be the servant. The leader is to lead by serving. Jesus' answer then for the Jewish leaders – stands today for the leaders of the Christian church – or for that matter, any Christian – you must be servant.

Jesus gives no condition that this would be merely for a time or a season. I've always said the pastor that had the biggest influence on me was Malloy Owens. He was only my pastor for one year but he influenced me by what he did not merely what he said. I confess – the church IS full of hypocrites but there is no better place for us hypocrites – for it is here we can come clean with one who not only KNOWS THAT BUT who promises to CHANGE THAT.

Yesterday I was amazed by the people who were amazed that a church would buy down gas. For that matter, people are amazed we'd sponsor a Boy Scout troop or do all we do for Murphy-Harpst like when our youth gave birthday cake mixes. This is what it means to RETHINK CHURCH – it means to really believe what Jesus said and do what Jesus did!

I confess – I haven't always done it and the church hasn't either BUT may I ask – how about you? And may I suggest – today is the perfect day join the rest of us hypocrites in trying to follow after Jesus.


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