My father used to have a sign on his desk that read, “If you were on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” If you are a Western Christian like myself, there’s a good chance the answer to that question would be ‘no’. In fact, from what I have seen and read, a large number of those professing to believe in Jesus are actually frauds. We claim to follow the teachings of Christ, but in practice we do anything but that. Jesus had strong words for the hypocrites of His day (Matthew 7:4-5; Matthew 15:5-9; Matthew 23:13-15); do you think His position has softened over the years?
In Matthew 7:4-5, Jesus warned us to make sure our own lives are in order before we point out the fault in the life of someone else. We are a people who are quick to judge; in America we have a list of pet sins that are the frequent topics of sermons. We rail against homosexuality, murder, and adultery while all the while we are mired in own lust, greed and apathy. No sin is greater than another. If we have sinned in any area, we have sinned in all (James 2:10). Yet somehow we feel we can justify our own shortcomings by pointing out the failures of others. If this is a pattern in our lives, we are called out by Jesus as hypocrites. We are a fraud.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day would neglect their families in order to devote more time to God. This flew in the face of the very commandments God had given them, and Jesus didn’t let it slide (Matthew 15:5-9). These people professed to strictly adhere to God’s Word, but their lives demonstrated that they lived in direct contradiction to what they were teaching. In truth, they were selfish and perhaps even lazy. They didn’t want to be bothered actually carrying out the commands of God, but were content to simply pontificate and accuse others of the same failures they demonstrated daily. Does that sound like anyone you know? Do we not ourselves exhibit these same tendencies in our own lives? If we are living life in such a way, there is no getting around the fact that we are a fraud.
Jesus lays out a list of hypocritical behaviors He detests in Matthew 23:13-15. See if you can’t identify some of these traits in your own life: you portray yourself to be far more spiritual than you are, you love to be recognized for your deep spirituality all the while chasing the material success of the world and neglecting the commands of Christ, you talk a good game but never get too deeply involved in any of the relational mess with those around you. These are not the ways of Jesus, and if we are engaged in these behaviors, Jesus says we are a hypocrite. In modern day terms, we are simply a fraud.
I am terrified at the thought of meeting Jesus and having Him see me as a fraud. The good news is that whether or not that ever happens is entirely up to me. If I listen to His teachings and obey His commands, there is nothing to fear. If on the other hand I am merely a lip-service Christian who espouses great truths but lives in ways contrary to the Kingdom, I am a hypocrite and a fool. How about you? Are you living consistent with the teachings of Jesus? Do you love Him and carry out His commands? Or are you content to look good on the outside while harboring selfishness and pride within? Remember, God sees our heart and He is not fooled. Are you a fraud? Only you and God know.