The Paper Pulpit
“Hypocrite” — what a repulsive word! It becomes even more repulsive when you have to deal with someone who is a hypocrite. This is true because a hypocrite never intends to be what he or she pretends to be. Hypocrites can be found, not just in churches, but in every area of life.
Hypocrites have been described as persons who preach by the yard, but practice by the inch. One of the reasons they are found in church on Sunday morning is that they admire righteousness. They admire it enough to imitate it. They can pray on their knees in church on Sunday, and then prey on their neighbors the following six day of the week.
Aesop in one of his fables tells of the time when the earth’s beasts and fowl were engaged in war. The bat tried to belong to both parties. When the birds were victorious, he would fly around telling that he was a bird. When the beasts won a fight, he would walk around on the ground assuring them that he was a beast. However, his hypocrisy was soon discovered and he was rejected by both the beasts and the birds. He became so unpopular that he had to hide himself while the sun is shining and can only appear openly at night.
What makes the word “hypocrite” so repulsive is that hypocrites always present themselves in the best light, even though they have a hidden agenda. The hidden agenda is generally a selfish one. In other words, what you see is not what you get.
Hypocrisy — saying one thing and meaning another — is also a well-established practice in the political arena. E.E. Smith, writing in The Wall Street Journal, quoted a U.S. Congressman as saying on the floor in the U.S. House of Representatives, “Never before have I heard such ill-informed, wimpy, back-stabbing drivel as that just uttered by my respected colleague, the distinguished gentleman from Ohio.”
Such double-talk is so common in the halls of government that it is not even noticed. Watching the members of Congress in action on C-Span makes one wonder how our country has survived almost two hundred and fifty years. When bills and amendments are being discussed before being voted on, only a half dozen or fewer legislators are present.
Hypocrisy, when practiced by parents in the home, will always have a negative influence on their children. This is true because more is caught by children from what their parents do than could ever be taught by parents through any amount of words they might use. In every area of life, actions speak louder than words. Nowhere is this truer than in the home.
Hypocrisy is particularly repulsive when practiced by the followers of Jesus Christ. Those of us who are Christians will never impact the world for Christ in a positive way by singing “Standing on the Promises” in church on Sunday morning if all we are doing is “sitting on the premises.”
A rather pompous deacon was endeavoring to impress upon a class of boys the importance of living a Christian life. “Why do people call me a Christian?” he asked.
After a moment’s pause, one youngster said, “Maybe it’s because they don’t know you.” I doubt that the deacon expected such an honest answer. I also doubt that he ever asked a class of boys that question again.
We are no better than the Pharisees, about whom Jesus said prayed on street corners to be heard by men, if our goal is to parade our piety in church in the hope it will impress others.
I have been a Christian minister for more than sixty years, and I have learned that the people who try to impress you with their spirituality don’t have any — certainly not a great deal of it, anyway. Those who are most spiritual don’t try to impress others. Their only desire is to be more like Jesus, who gave up the highest position in the universe, came to earth, and became a servant.
The Rev. D.E. Parkerson is retired pastor of First Baptist Church of Sanford.