On my desk at work sits a small, decorated pumpkin made by my 8 year old daughter. Yes, it’s two weeks past Halloween. And yes, it is decomposing. It doesn’t have a rotten smell, yet. It is a bit squishy on one side, though.
She picked it up from our front porch on the way to church. We were already running late when my daughters stopped me with a shout at the end of our driveway. “Daddy, we forgot our pumpkins,” they cried out. “It’s our special “pumpkin decorating” event at kids church. We have to get our pumpkins.”
The significance of running late for church on a Saturday night for our family is much greater than most. I am the pastor for this service. It’s not as appropriate for me to slip in the back of the sanctuary two songs into the worship set. I need to be there. And, I need to be there an hour early.
An hour early has already passed at this point. I am hoping to make it thirty minutes before the hour. We rushed out of the house. I am speeding out of the garage and down the driveway. Blood pressure is spiking for all three of us. That’s when my daughters remember the pumpkins.
I stop in front of our house. “Hurry. Hop out and grab a pumpkin by the front door,” I say. My oldest grabs the smaller, more convenient pumpkin. My youngest does the same. Halfway back to the car, she turns around. She marches over to our patio like it’s a pumpkin patch. She sets the small one down and starts sizing up the bigger ones.
It’s obvious what she’s thinking. She wants a big pumpkin. To be exact, she wants the biggest pumpkin. The one too big for her to carry. She makes an attempt to pick it up. Not happening, though.
I shout from the car, “Let’s go. Pick up the small one. We’re going to be late.” If you’re a parent, you know what comes next. She bursts into tears like it’s the end of the world. I don’t have time for a fit at the moment. I put the car in park. I get out, run over to her, pick up the big pumpkin, and throw it in the back. Off we go.
It all worked out fine. I wasn’t too late. The kids decorated pumpkins. I didn’t lose my mind.
I can laugh, now that we’re three weeks removed. It’s hilarious to see again in my mind’s eye my youngest daughter struggle to pick up the big pumpkin. She was determined. There was just no way. She couldn’t do it. Pound for pound, it was beyond her capacity. Had I let her struggle with it very long, the result would have been a complete melt down. To her credit, she did give it a try.
You are probably thinking, “What does this have to do with hypocrisy?”
Well, the root of hypocrisy is asking someone to carry something that is bigger than anyone can handle. It is imposing on others a requirement even you can’t fulfill.
In Acts 15, some Jewish believers held major concerns about the conversion of Gentiles. The concern isn’t so much that Gentiles are becoming believers. The issue is defining what is necessary for the faith of Gentiles to be legitimated.
Those most concerned interrupted a meeting with church leaders to say, “It is necessary for them to be circumcised and ordered to keep the law of Moses” (Acts 15:5, NRSV). It only seems fair to expect of Gentiles what has been expected of Jews, right? Why make it any easier or discard ancient tradition? Isn’t that dumbing it down and jeopardizing the integrity of God’s people?
The leaders meet to sort matters out. Peter stands to plead his perspective. He emphasizes God’s special call on him to share the good news of Jesus with the Gentiles. He highlights God’s act of giving the Gentiles the Holy Spirit, just as God gave to the Jews. “God does not make a distinction,” he submits.
Now therefore why are you putting God to the test by placing on the neck of the disciples a yoke that neither our ancestors nor we have been able to bear? On the contrary, we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” Acts 15:10-11 (NRSV)
There it is. The root of hypocrisy is placing a burden on others that you can’t bear.
How can you avoid hypocrisy taking root in your life?
Regularly and honestly admit your own imperfections.
You will not get everything right all the time. You will have moments when you make a mistake or fall short. It’s okay, we all do. Just admit it.
This eliminates the distinctions we make for ourselves. It prevents you from elevating yourself to a status of moral superiority.
Avoid singling out certain sins.
Sin is sin. There’s no scale. One isn’t more depraved than the others. God doesn’t spotlight one to the exclusion of others.
Singling out certain sins makes them seem more gross. It is normally done to relieve a pressure you feel and displaces it onto others.
Give the same grace to others that God gives to you.
You can’t earn God’s love. God forgives you despite your inability to get it all right. Jesus didn’t patronize your imperfection from a position of perfection.
Giving grace to others acknowledges your common humanity with others. We are in this together. You need grace. I need grace.
This eliminates the temptation to label sin. Grace is less concerned about calling the sin out, and more interested in healing the wounds it has left.
Let’s all be honest. I (You) can be a hypocrite.
The root runs deep. You can dig it out and chop it up, but somehow it sprouts a new shoot again.
To minimize deep growth, regularly:
- Admit your own imperfections.
- Avoid singling out sins.
- Give grace.