Josh Hamilton is an outfielder who has publicly professed a faith in Jesus Christ. He has also admitted to being an alcoholic. This past August a story broke that Hamilton had been photographed in a bar eight months previously, drinking and partying. The media latched onto the story and words like ‘hypocrite’ were used to describe Hamilton; a believer who gets drunk. But is he a hypocrite?
28″What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
29″ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
30″Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
31″Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
So who is the hypocrite here? Is it the one who refuses the father’s word or the one that doesn’t do what the Father asks? Jesus is saying here that the tax collectors, prostitutes, sinners are like the first son, who dishonour the Father, but later repent. The Pharisees, the scribes, the religious folks are like the second son, who say they will be do what the Father asks, but then refuse to do it.
In this parable Jesus is exposing the folly of religion. In religion we are saved and then are supposed to clean ourselves up; after all Jesus died on the cross, the least you could do is quit swearing or lusting or lying. So a hypocrite by this definition is a person who claims to be a Christian but still does the things they are not supposed to do.
The problem with this definition of hypocrite is that most of us are good at hiding our mistakes so we begin to play a wicked game: Pretending to be good. We follow Jesus’ example instead of following Jesus. Before long, if we are honest, we are crushed under the pressure of trying to be good. We aren’t as good as we need to be and the only way to survive this living contradiction is to find somebody that is worse than you (in your own estimation).
No wonder the world has sin, forgiveness, and hypocrisy all wrong. We live out the mistaken notion that ‘Christianity is all about doing the right thing’ to them all the time! Then begins the media ‘blood-sport’ of finding a person who professes a faith in Jesus and then catching them doing something they shouldn’t do.
Hypocrisy is not failing to practice what you preach, so much as it is pretending you have beliefs that you don’t actually have. Christians are very much at risk of being hypocritical but not in the way you think. A hypocrite is actually a person who says they trust Jesus to be sufficient and then live like they are trying to clean themselves up. That’s a real hypocrite.
The hypocrite isn’t the one who is a Christian and then falls down in some sin. The hypocrite is the one who claims to be a believer, but trusts in their compliance to save them. I obey, therefore I am acceptable to God. That is the motto of a hypocrite.
The true believer says, “I am acceptable, therefore I will try to obey. My obedience is not the requirement of acceptance, it is the product of it.”
I don’t feel like I’m a hypocrite. I feel like I’m human. I got away from Jesus Christ, the one thing that keeps me straightened out and going in the right direction. -Josh Hamilton
So how do you tell the difference? How do you tell if a person is trying to be good because that will make them acceptable or if a person is trying to be good as a response to the grace of God?
You don’t. It’s not your job to decide who’s in and who’s out. Your job is to see yourself as God sees you.
God loves you just the way you are but loves you too much to leave you that way. God doesn’t love some future version of you. He loves you.
Martin Luther wrote in one of his 95 thesis, “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ willed the entire life of a believer to be one of repentance.”
Repentance is a realistic assessment that we are sinners saved by God’s grace, and a willingness to be forgiven by God.
Hypocrisy is thanking God for picking us for His team and thinking there isn’t much that needs to be repented of.