I’ve been thinking a lot about hypocrites. Goodness knows they are easy enough to spot. They’re everywhere! If truth be told, I’ve got one or two in my church. Don’t even get me started about the ones who attend the other churches in town!
Hypocrites must have been part of creation from the very beginning. You find them throughout history and even in the pages of the Bible. In fact, some of the more animated moments in Jesus’ ministry are those in which he spies out the hypocrites and calls them out and down!
The 23rd chapter of Matthew is a great passage to hear read from the sidelines. You can hear the anger in Jesus’ voice and almost see the smoke rising from his ears. Woe to you who slam shut the doors of the kingdom . . . who make converts and turn them into children of hell . . . who keep the little rules like tithing while neglecting the weightier ones . . . who spit-shine the outside of the cup while leaving garbage inside it! He calls them “blind fools,” “hypocrites,” and “serpents . . . [a] brood of vipers.”
Like many others, when I read this chapter, I’m pumping my fist in the air and shouting, “You get’em Jesus!” Somewhere along in the shouting my throat gets tight and then closes. Suddenly, it is too clear to whom Jesus speaks. He speaks to me . . . and people like me, people whose business is religion and church. He speaks to people who preach the inclusive nature of the kingdom and who quietly (and not so quietly) work to hide the door from those who are not like us. He speaks to those who speak of love as our aim but who rush to condemn others.
Yes, I’ve been thinking a lot about hypocrites and I don’t like what I’m thinking . . . that just maybe Jesus’ definition is not my definition . . . that the hypocrites I see may not be the hypocrite Jesus would have me see.
I find it so easy to see what is wrong in the lives of others with whom I share community. Jesus, bless his persistent heart, keeps trying to fit me with corrective lenses that I may see as he sees. Try as I might, I can’t live long in Matthew 23. I can’t live long there because the Spirit keeps reminding me of something else that Jesus said . . . said to folks like me who can so easily see the hypocrisy of others. “Why do you see the speck that is in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3 NRSV)
Pardon me! There’s something in my eye . . . .