There is in each of us a dangerous temptation toward hypocrisy, to be one thing but to pretend to be another. There are many within the church who are hypocrites, people who claim to be Christians but who are, in fact, unbelievers attempting to convince others (and perhaps themselves) that they are followers of Jesus Christ. They are people who do not practice true virtue but who instead offer counterfeit versions of it. Jude compares them to clouds without water in that they seem to be full of the Spirit but are actually devoid of true goodness.
Here are five solemn warnings to those who only pretend to be godly:
Hypocrisy angers God. God hates hypocrisy and hypocrites because hypocrisy misuses religion, taking advantage of its laws and decrees for self-advancement. The hypocrite wants religion—even the Christian faith—only for the advantages he gains from it. He fails to truly turn his heart to God and do good to God’s people. He carries Christ in his Bible, but not in his heart. He serves the devil while wearing the uniform of Christ. He will be condemned by God.
Hypocrisy is self-delusion. Many hypocrites deceive themselves, thinking that their hypocritical deeds are evidence of true godliness or, even worse, that they have the ability to merit God’s favor. The person who collects counterfeit money harms no one more than himself. The person who piles up counterfeit godliness does the greatest damage to his own soul. “The hypocrite deceives others while he lives, but deceives himself when he dies.”
Hypocrisy is offensive to God and man. Unbelievers hate the hypocrite because he makes himself appear godly; God hates him because he merely looks godly. Unbelievers are deceived by his veneer of godliness and hate him for it; God sees through that veneer and hates him for having no more than that. The hypocrite loses on all accounts because he becomes the enemy of unbelievers and of God. “The wicked hate the hypocrite because he is almost a Christian, and God hates him because he is only almost.”
Hypocrisy is pointless. The hypocrite may labor hard in this life, but as soon as he dies he will lose absolutely everything. The only reward he will be able to enjoy will be in this life since he will certainly be condemned in death. He may earn praise today, but he will receive only retribution at the judgment.
Hypocrisy brings no comfort in death. People who have only painted over their depravity with a thin veneer of counterfeit holiness will find themselves without hope and without comfort upon their deathbed. Little holiness leads to little happiness.
Hypocrisy is an ugly sin and one that God despises. Yet still there is hope for the hypocrite and the words of Paul should ring in the ears of the hypocrite: “Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). Those who turn to Christ in repentance and faith will be cleansed of every sin, including this one. And then they will be indwelled by the Holy Spirit so they can clean off that thin veneer of holiness and, instead, become truly holy.
As for those of us who truly believe, but still grapple with the temptation toward hypocrisy, let’s pray with Thomas Watson: “Lord, let me be anything rather than a hypocrite,” for two hearts will exclude one from heaven. We may well ask, “What good will it do to a man when he is in hell, that others think he is in heaven?”