For they preach, but do not practice. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
-- Matthew 23:3,12
You might be a hypocrite if you are religious. Now, not every religious person is a hypocrite. Genuine Christians follow the religious rituals and disciplines of biblical Christianity. But religion practiced insincerely with ulterior motives is blatant hypocrisy.
The Gospels show that most of the Pharisees concocted a cacophony of rules not to keep them, but to use them to control, condemn, and extort money and property from other Jews. Some so-called Christian preachers clearly use extreme forms of pentecostal theology to promise health and wealth to their followers, impoverishing them so that they can live immoral and lavish lifestyles. And in what may be the most common form of hypocrisy today, most people who have made professions of faith in Christ are nominal Christians, in name only, and do not worship, witness, give or serve Christ through His bride, the local church. If your use or misuse of religion makes your life comfortable at the expense of harming someone else's body, soul, or chance of coming to Christ, then you are a hypocrite.
You might be a hypocrite if you love to be first. Now, not every person who works to be first is a hypocrite. Everyone should strive to be the best they can be in matters of faith, academics, vocation, and athletic competition. The Pharisees strived for "Moses' seat" in the synagogue and made "their phylacteries broad and their fringes long." These were sorts of blue ribbons for the Jewish religious rulers who could memorize the most Scripture. If you know a lot of Bible verses and can pass a theology test, but do not love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself, you are nothing but a two-bit hypocrite, according to Jesus.
You might be a hypocrite if you like to tell others what to do. Now, not every leader, supervisor, or coach is a hypocrite. In every entity, someone has to be in charge. But if you crave titles for titles' sake, power for power's sake, if you want to rule over other people because you think you are better than them, and if you use your authority to force or guilt people into doing what you are not willing to do, you are a hypocrite. Human power that does not to submit to divine authority is hypocrisy and harmful to other human beings.
You might be a humble Christian if you are a real follower of Jesus Christ. You can be a follower of Christianity and still be woefully lost. Christians do not only follow the Christian religion; they wholeheartedly follow Christ. They bow before the Lord, freely confess their sinfulness, pray for forgiveness and strength, and rise up to worship Him on Sundays and every day. They don't just ask what Jesus would do, they find out what Jesus has done, is doing, and will do, and immerse themselves in it. They join a long line of pilgrims traveling the narrow way, with Jesus unequivocally at the head of the line.
You might be a humble Christian if you don't mind being last. I don't mean to make it your ambition to finish last in a contest by going slow or dropping out. I am speaking of putting yourself last on your list of people priorities. True joy in life can be found by putting Jesus first, Other second, and Yourself last. It is the great role of the "servant" that Jesus commends so highly in this text and many others.
You might be a humble Christian if you don't mind being told what to do. Christians delight in doing their duty, when it is God calling the shots Are you an obedient servant of the Lord? If you could ask God one question, would you ask Him to give you something, or give you something to do? If you are convinced by the word and the Spirit, that certain things are right and wrong, will you cling to the right? Humble yourself, in the eyes of the law, in the eyes of the Lord, and one day you will be exalted above and beyond anything you've ever dreamed possible.
According to Jesus, you might be a hypocrite, or you might be a humble Christian. God will humble the hypocrites who exalt themselves on earth. God will exalt the humble servants who sincerely followed Christ on earth. What will God do with you?
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church, 5963 Central Ave. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]