Six Ways the Church Becomes Hypocritical

A hypocrite is someone who acts differently than his or her stated beliefs. In one sense, we’re all hypocrites because none of us live up to our own standards.

We’ve all heard the claims about how the church is full of hypocrites. It’s easy to dismiss these complaints as unfair. We shouldn’t.

Your attitude and actions should match your belief. Jesus expressed concern over religious hypocrisy. In Matthew 6 and Luke 11, He denounces hypocritical givers, hypocritical prayers, hypocritical fasting, and hypocritical judgmentalism, among others. Jesus was tired of the false piety of the Pharisees, specifically how they used religion to leverage power.

Christian hypocrisy occurs when you make yourself the priority over God. Often, hypocrisy is an accusation leveled at a particular person. But churches can become hypocritical and cultivate a culture of hypocrisy as an organization. How does this happen?

1. The church becomes fixated on external preferences and not internal devotion. This kind of hypocrisy occurs when we elevate our preferences to the level of Scripture and lower others’ preferences to the level of sin. Church preferences never saved anyone. Let’s keep the main thing the main thing.

2. The church falls in love with commitment but neglects people. Jesus condemns the Pharisees for loving what they were doing more than why they were doing it. They loved the system more than the people they were supposed to serve. Commitment is important. Commitment that neglects people is hypocrisy.

3. The church leaders seek religious prominence instead of humble service. Church leaders who feed off the attention of others will face the temptation to raise their own names above that of Christ. Serving people in a way that glorifies God requires humility.

4. The church hides double standards with artificial religious rules. Well-intentioned rule-followers can be swept into hypocrisy. Artificial rules can hide double standards, but they also confuse the message of the gospel.  

5. The church kills the heart of worship with a religious presentation. What Abel gave to God was an acceptable offering because it reflected the true heart of worship. What Cain gave to God was not acceptable because it was a religious presentation. And what happened next? The hypocritical brother killed the worshiping brother. The heart of worship is complete surrender to King Jesus, not a religious presentation.

6. The church adds to the gospel to burden people. Religion becomes a barrier to salvation when the church adds rules to the gospel as a prerequisite for salvation. Nothing is more hypocritical than burdening people with the false gospel of legalism. When salvation is a moving target, the church becomes a vehicle for oppression.

One of the main antidotes to hypocrisy is a culture of repentance. When people live out repentance, hypocrisy becomes much less of a problem in the church.

Frankly, on this side of heaven, a perfect church would be a crushing burden. You would ruin it the moment you joined! You don’t need a perfect church. You need a perfect Savior. The church is called to be authentic.

Ultimately, hypocrisy dies when a church becomes sold out for the good news of Jesus.


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