One common complaint about Christianity is that Christians are often hypocritical. A recent Barna survey of Christians seems to support that assessment. This gives the impression that Christians more often than not don’t practice what they preach. This makes me wonder… does this suggest that hypocrisy is more prevalent among Christians than non-Christians? Are Christians supposedly cornering the market on hypocrisy?
1) A person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.
2) A person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements.
In my opinion, being a “hypocrite” is not simply being a person who on occasion professes one thing and does another, but rather one who regularly exhibits no conscience when perpetrating this kind of double-standard. The reason I believe this is an important distinction is that I believe we all have at one point or another, and probably on multiple occasions, fallen short with our actions in keeping with that which we profess. I believe this to be fairly common among all humans and not just Christians. No human is perfect, all humans fall short at times and most of us probably have ideals that are higher than our everyday actions.
I suppose the reason Christians are often thought of as being hypocritical may be because some Christians can tend to be obvious about their moral convictions, and then not always hold up to them. Sometimes we put fish symbols on our cars, and then cut people off in traffic. Sometimes we argue with the sales clerk and then say “Merry Christmas”. These people become very obvious in that regard. Probably a similar number of non-Christians do these things as well, but it isn’t as obvious and maybe doesn’t seem so ironic when they do.
Christian or not, if we intentionally hold the bar higher for others than we do for ourselves, and do so because of a sense of self-righteousness, then we are truly hypocrites. If we tend to hold the bar higher for others and don’t realize we are not meeting up to that standard ourselves, then we need someone to hold us accountable and to help us look in the mirror.
Above all, the best thing we can do is to follow Christ’s example and hold others in greater esteem than we do ourselves. We as Christians must also remember that the problem we sometimes have with hypocrisy is not in our wanting to see God’s laws upheld, but in wanting to the be the judge and jury of others when they fall short of it. That’s not our place – that belongs to our Lord.
Saying is one thing, doing another. We must consider the sermon and the preacher distinctly and apart. – Montaigne
How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few his precepts! O! ’tis easier to keep holidays than commandments. – Benjamin Franklin
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. – Jesus (Luke 6:37)