It is natural for us to hate hypocrisy. We fear and loathe deception because we make our decisions on the information presented to us both externally in our everyday interactions and experiences, and internally through our senses and “trusting our gut”. When our independent decisions are affected, it is an intrusive and defiling experience.
Yet, we experience deception willingly and even welcome it in our everyday lives. Our lives are greatly influenced by the worldly; we are drawn in by the false promises given to us by material possessions, advertising, hedonistic desires, and social pressure.
This is a difficult conundrum: living in a world where truth becomes distorted so easily. More than ever, our integrity becomes precious to us as Christians.
When Christians fall into the trap of hypocrisy, it undermines our message of God’s word. When we gave ourselves up to God, we became vessels for the message of our Lord, who says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
This is a significant responsibility that true Christians accept:
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”2 Corinthians 5:20 ESV
We follow this responsibility as ambassadors even if it leads us to death.
Proof of our salvation and commitment to the Lord shows up in our deeds. In James 2:14-26, we learn that faith without works is dead. God knows our deeds and our heart, and Christians manifest their faith in God through their actions.
We are God’s workmanship, and created in Christ for good works prepared beforehand by God so we could follow:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV
With this in mind, what does the bible have to say about our integrity?
Introducing the Church in Laodicea
Laodicea was an ancient city during the Roman period located on major trade routes that connected it to other important cities like Ephesus, Smyrna and Sardis. It was known for its wealth not due to its location but also because it was a centre for textile production and banking.
The “Christian” church in Laodicea was a church that represented a “white washed tomb”, and described by Christ as lukewarm, which becomes a metaphor for hypocrisy. It was a church that professed to know Christ, but not actually belonging to Christ.
Revelation 3:17 describes the church in Laodicea further: You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and I do not need a thing’ (Revelation 3:17 ESV)
Interestingly, they mirror the mindset of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. Their self-perceived wealth may not have only been physical wealth, but they thought they were spiritually wealthy as well.
But Christ does not see them nearly as favourably: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. Wish you were either one or the other! So because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16 ESV) With respect to their faith, they are “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17 ESV).
Christ gives a blistering rebuke to a proud yet unregenerate false church with no redeeming feature.
It is well known that Christ abhorred the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of His time:
You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’Matthew 15:7-9 ESV
Jesus also emphasizes the 7 Woes on the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:1-7.
In Luke 20:46-47, Jesus says:
Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.Luke 20:46-47 ESV
Just like the religious leaders and the church in Laodicea, their actions are hypocritical because they act contrary to the behavior of one who is truly saved in Christ.
The Bible Protects Us From Hypocrisy
Our actions and hearts are revealed to God: “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” (Luke 12:2 ESV)
The bible is full of warnings that focus on our individual integrity. Some of them include:
Hate – If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20 ESV)
Speech – “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” (James 1:26 ESV)
Showing Off – “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1 ESV)
Judging Others – “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?” (Romans 2:1-3 ESV)
Obedience – “Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,” (1 John 2:4 ESV)
Giving – “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:2-4 ESV)
Prayer – “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” (Matthew 6:5 ESV)
We are reminded as Christians in Titus 1:7-9 that we are overseers and stewards assigned by God and thus, we must maintain our integrity in order to be above reproach and hold firm to the word so we can instruct others in sound Biblical doctrine, as well as rebuke those who contradict that same Biblical doctrine:
For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.Titus 1:7-9 ESV
Christ Counsels Us To See the Truth
Just like the church in Laodicea, We are counseled by Christ to “buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.” (Revelation 3:18 ESV). In other words, Christ calls us to pray to God to heal our spiritual blindness so that we can see the truth.
When Christ refers to gold, He is not speaking of physical gold. He speaks of a real and true faith. Even those who are physically poor are chosen by God to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom as promised to those who love Him (James 2:5).
If we give ourselves to Christ, He will give us a pure faith more priceless than gold. We are born again to a living hope through a tested and genuine faith:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.1 Peter 1:4-7 ESV
A true genuine faith and relationship with Christ affirms us as true Christians. Salvation is the gold that makes us rich in faith, as well as the white robe that covers our sin. Salvation is the salve that heals our blindness – thanks to the Holy Spirit providing us with knowledge of God and the saving truth of Christ.
Scripture reveals to us a very important truth in 2 Corinthians 1:20 ESV, “for all the promises of God in Him are amen.” What this means is that all of God’s promises and all of God’s covenants are guaranteed and affirmed by the person and work of Jesus Christ. God made promises to mankind to show them His mercy and loving kindness and grace, along with eternal life through Jesus Christ fulfilling His work.
Genuine faith will lead to genuine works. And this preserves our Christian integrity.