Excuses, Excuses

Recently I had a conversation with a two people who professed to believe in God and who supposedly wanted to have some relationship with God but refused to frequent a church because of “all of the hypocrites who attended.”  They had nothing but criticism and contempt for people they thought did not live a righteous life but who professed to be Christians.  This criticism seems to be a common complaint (or excuse) for those who fail to attend church or fellowship with other believers. 

The charge of hypocrisy has been around for a long time.  What exactly is hypocrisy?  According to Webster’s Dictionary, it means “simulation; feigning to be what one is not; or dissimulation; a concealment of one’s real character or motives.  More generally, hypocrisy is simulation, or the assuming of a false appearance of virtue or religion; a deceitful show of good character, in morals or religion; a counterfeiting of religion.”  Looking at the definition, it is clear that hypocrisy has a lot to do with the intent of the person.  It applies to a person who intentionally conceals their real character or who deceitfully acts like they possess good moral character when they actually do not.

Jesus Christ Himself confronted hypocrisy during His day on numerous occasions.  When He confronted hypocrisy, He attempted to teach a lesson.  In the “do not” verses that follow, Christ was teaching about rewards and the value of the act or gift.  Notice the commonality contained within those verses.

2 "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. Matthew 6:2 (NIV)


5 "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. Matthew 6:5 (NIV)


16 "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. Matthew 6:16 (NIV)

In Matthew 6:2 Christ was addressing a religious act and the way in which that act was administered.  Gifts were not to be announced in order to be honored by men; otherwise, the donor of the gift had received his “reward in full.”  In other words the honor given by men would be all that the donor would ever receive as a gift given in this manner would not be honored by God. 

It is fairly common in our society for people to make charitable gifts and some people give very large charitable gifts.  There are a number of people who establish charitable trusts or foundations for the purpose of benefiting organizations or the less fortunate.  Many of these charitable organizations are well-known and have had a major impact on their donees.  The question that arises however is “What is the primary motivation for the making of the gift?”  Is it purely for the charitable purpose?  Is it because the donor wants to be recognized for their generosity?  Is it for creative tax planning purposes?  

In Matthew 6:5 and Matthew 6:16 Christ was referring to religious acts which dealt with public demonstrations of the act.  Prayer was being offered in public (synagogues and street corners) for the wrong reasons.  These individuals wanted to be seen by men.  Why would they want to do such a thing?  The reason, of course, was to show their contemporaries just how righteous and holy they were.  They did not pray in public for the purpose of witnessing to the masses.  Rather, it was a “feigning to be what one was not.”  It was a simulation of the act.  There was no desire to commune with God.  The underlying desire was to be seen by men.

Similarly, disfigurement of the face was a way of showing that one was undergoing the right of fasting.  Fasting was a denial of self in order to grow closer to God.  However, the idea of fasting in public was abhorrent to Christ not because of the actual act of fasting but rather because of the intent of the individual.  In this instance, just as was the case with public prayer, the intent of the hypocrite was to be seen by his fellow man so that all would know just how godly this individual was.  The intent was not to deny oneself but rather it was to glorify oneself.

In each of these verses as like the verses hereinbelow, the term “hypocrites” is used.  According to Strong’s Greek-Hebrew Dictionary, that word from the Hebrew means “an actor under an assumed character (stage-player), i.e. (figuratively) a dissembler ("hypocrite").”  It was an actor, someone acting out a part.  It was not someone who was real or genuine but rather someone who was in fact disingenuous.  Like Webster’s said, it was someone pretending to be someone or something they were not.

Christ went on to deal with hypocrisy in His “woe to you” verses.  In each of these verses, Christ specifically addressed the religious leaders of His day, i.e. the teachers of the law (scribes) and the Pharisees.  Woe was a primary expression of grief meaning “alas.”  In each of these verses Christ was criticizing and condemning these leaders for their actions which did nothing to further the Kingdom of God.  The fact of the matter was that the religious leaders of His day acted in such a manner that was contrary to God’s wishes.


13 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.  Matthew 23:13 (NIV)


15 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. Matthew 23:15 (NIV)


23 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. Matthew 23:23 (NIV)


25 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Matthew 23:25  (NIV)


27 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. Matthew 23:27 (NIV)


29 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. Matthew 23:29 (NIV)

In each instance Christ publicly labeled these people as counterfeit, fake, disingenuous and deceitful.  Then He specifically told them why He identified them in that way that He did.  With all of their rules and regulations, they purposefully shut door to the Kingdom of God to seekers even though they themselves were not going to be allowed to enter; He accused them of chasing down converts only to turn them into something as bad as they were; He accused them of fulfilling the minor requirements of the law while at the same time neglecting the more important aspects of the law such as justice, mercy and faithfulness; He looked inside each of them and criticized them for their motives; He identified their character labeling them filthy and defiled; and finally, He accused them of murder.  It is no wonder that they ultimately planned and carried out his execution.

At the end of the Olivet Discourse in the form of an allegory, Christ infers what happens to hypocrites when He speaks about the difference in treatment for those people who are prepared for his rapture of the church and for people who will be unprepared.

45 "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, 'My master is staying away a long time,' 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matt 24:45-51 (NIV)

The unprepared will be cut to pieces and assigned a place with the hypocrites where there will be great distress and mourning.  Hypocrites are evidently consigned to Hades and ultimately would be consigned to hell (Gehenna). 

But some may ask, “What about those Christians who are hypocrites?  Are they going to hell?”  Those aren’t the questions to ask.  The question to ask is “Is a hypocritical person truly a Christian?”  I submit to you that they are not for the reason that as we have seen already, a hypocrite is somebody pretending to be someone or something they are not.  They are deceitful.  They are merely actors playing the part.  Their true intention is not to live the life of a Christian but rather to cloak themselves with the cover of Christianity while they carry out their own nefarious schemes.  They believe that the claim of Christianity can supply them with credibility that they are other wise lacking. 

Getting back to the comments made at the beginning of this article by the two people who refuse to go to church due to perceived hypocrisy, are they right?  Is the church filled with hypocrites?  Prior to researching and writing this article, I would have told you, “yes, the church is filled with hypocrites; they are just saved hypocrites.”  Today, my view has changed. 

I believe that the church is filled with sinners, people who struggle in their Christian walk every day.  However, I no longer believe that the church is filled with hypocrites, i.e. deceitful people who are just play-acting for their own benefit and the benefit of those around them.  Yes, there are hypocrites in the church just as there are hypocrites in every walk of life.  We encounter disingenuous people virtually everyday; however, do these morally bankrupt people fill the pews on Sunday?  I submit to you that by and large they do not.  The ones who come aren’t fooling anyone.  People know.

Moreover, the issue of perceived hypocrisy within the church is a red herring.  The simple fact is that you can find a Bible-teaching church that fits you if you will just look around.  The world is not filled with churches that are attended exclusively by hypocrites.  Hypocrites do not peruse the papers each Saturday picking out the church that they will attend the following day.  The refusal of a person to worship God corporately and fellowship with other believers is just that – a refusal.    

The New Testament, particularly the Book of Acts, is replete with references concerning the gathering of God’s people together.

44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:44-47 (NIV)


26 What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. 1 Cor 14:26 (NIV)


21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. Eph 2:21-22 (NIV)


16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Eph 4:16 (NIV)

It is clear from these verses that the purpose behind the gathering together is to build up the body of believers.  When people come together according to God’s purpose, it is to edify, support and strengthen their fellow members.

As time grows short and the advent of the Rapture comes closer, the gathering together of God’s people becomes more and more important.  As we read the news each day, we see gloom and despair spreading throughout God’s creation.  People, even Christian people, begin to lose hope.  There is a way to prevent this loss of hope during these end times.

25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Heb 10:25 (NIV)

Comments or questions may be directed to the author at info@rapturenext.com.