beyond all our dearest dreams
and that is our hope
recalling Christ’s words to the good thief
“this day you shall be
with me in paradise”
Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and his disciples, “The legal experts and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. Therefore, you must take care to do everything they say. But don’t do what they do. For they tie together heavy packs that are impossible to carry. They put them on the shoulders of others, but are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do, they do to be noticed by others. They make extra-wide prayer bands for their arms and long tassels for their clothes. They love to sit in places of honor at banquets and in the synagogues. They love to be greeted with honor in the markets and to be addressed as ‘Rabbi.’
“But you shouldn’t be called Rabbi, because you have one teacher, and all of you are brothers and sisters. Don’t call anybody on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is heavenly. Don’t be called teacher, because Christ is your one teacher. But the one who is greatest among you will be your servant. All who lift themselves up will be brought low. But all who make themselves low will be lifted up.
Hundreds of sermons on this passage will certainly be directed at "those hypocrites." Whether they are celebrity preachers who are well-known, and who have fallen in the public eye, or if they are simply another group of Christians with whom someone disagrees, there will certainly be a lot of sermons directed at "those hypocrites."
So instead of adding yet another sermon to those hundreds or thousands, what about a sermon from this hypocrite to her congregation? After all, Jesus is speaking to the religious leaders, the Pharisees, so what about a sermon talking about your "hypocrite" religious leader? (As entertaining as that might be, I'm sure it wouldn't be particularly edifying or helpful to others in simply pointing out all my hypocritical moments.)
Instead of a sermon from one religious leader who has had her hypocritical moments to her congregation, how about we have a discussion from one hypocrite to another hypocrite? No, I'm not simply trying to stop us from looking at my vulnerable moments, rather inviting us to consider that each and every one of us are religious leaders in our day and age, and that hypocrisy can be dangerous for all of us. Because, after all, this isn't about titles or positions, it is about where our hearts are. This is about what Fred Craddock calls "the love of place and preference among the servants of God."
It's not about attire; it's about attitude. It's not about titles; it's about a sense of religious entitlement. It is not only about the ordained; it is about the people of God, seeking to follow God in Jesus Christ.
How are we allowing hypocrisy to contaminate our own faith life? Author Mick Mooney says Jesus pointed to the hypocrisy of the religious leaders, and to us, to reveal to each of us that the greatest threat of any follower of God is not the temptation to sin morally; rather the greatest temptation is using God's name to become judgmental towards others.
So how do we fix that?
I can't promise you a fool-proof, step by step plan to fix hypocrisy in the church. However, I can promise you a sincere conversation from one hypocrite to another hypocrite, about how we can all more honestly and earnestly follow God, together. Won't you join us in seeking to follow God more closely?