Next week I’ll be posting an article about a very personal Christmas experience in my past. Our series on James will be on temporary hold until after Christmas.
Last time we talked about being a hearer and doer of the word. We cannot stop at knowing what God’s word says; we must also follow through with those lessons allowing God’s word to change us. If you remember we also focused on listening more, talking less and controlling our anger.
Within any group or organization there are always those who are committed and then there are the pretenders. When we talk about Christian pretenders there is a very ugly word used to describe them, we call them hypocrites. Tonight that is our topic. This isn’t a pleasant topic but God inspired James to cover it so we are going to cover it.
Hypocrite – v.26
We know there are those who say they are a Christian but the life they live does not back up their claim. In verse 26 we are given the specific example of evil speaking. Salvation produces a systematic restructuring of our character so that our personality lines up with God’s word. If a person’s life is all claim and no change then that claim is in vain.
Most of us will have some knowledge of courtroom proceedings: you are the defendant, in front of you sits the judge, to your left is the prosecution and the crime you are accused of is being a Christian. In such a setting would there be enough evidence against you for a conviction?
Hypocrites Only Deceive Themselves
In the middle of verse 26 is says that a hypocrite deceives his own heart. Jesus, in Matthew 7, talked about many who would claim the right to enter heaven by certain works but the answer will be “depart from me, I never knew you.” Hypocrites do in fact deceive themselves but that’s about the only ones. It isn’t too hard to spot a fake; if you hang around someone for a while you learn who they really are. We cannot bluff our way into heaven.
Hypocrites do a Lot of Religious Things
At the beginning and end of verse 26 James refers to religious actions. Sure pretenders will do some good deeds, they have to in order to continue the ruse.
Hypocrites Hurt the Ones they Love
It is clearly understood that a hypocrite hurts themselves but all too often they hurt the ones they love as well. In the middle of verse 26 it talks about the evil speaking common with a hypocrite: this is going to affect all involved. Think about the family of this person: how about the mother and father, how do they feel? What kind of trouble will a hypocrite cause their family? Well, we have an example in scripture. In Joshua’s day there was a man called Achan who was a pretender that caused Israel to sin before God. When he was found out He, his family and even his flocks and possessions were destroyed and afterwards burned.
You might think, wow, that is pretty severe. What that should teach us is how detestable a hypocrite is in God’s eyes.
Hypocrites Hurt the Cause of Christ
When a person says they are a Christian their life is observed. Christians are supposed to be a good influence to those around them. Unfortunately a hypocrite will be a destructive influence. This gives the unsaved a reason to cast doubt on the worth of being a Christian. You might think there are many examples of good Christians that do give Christianity a good name, why do the unsaved use hypocrites as an excuse to reject God? I will try to answer that as best I can.
The bible tells us we are all born into sin. In this state, whether or not we want to accept it, Satan rules our thoughts. Our desires are not to do the right thing but rather our nature is to do the wrong thing. Satan, as he always does, gives excuses why the unsaved should not accept Jesus. When God deals with our heart we are exposed to the truth. The mind God created in us understands that what we are hearing is the truth. Here is where Satan comes in, he argues against the truth with any lie we will accept. When we are exposed to a hypocrite Satan will say something like “See there, Christianity is not real. You are just as good a person as they are.”
Let me offer an observation, no one likes a hypocrite. Why then would an unsaved person reject Jesus because of a hypocrite and spend an eternity in hell? That doesn’t make any sense; that is where the hypocrites are going. Why would we let a fake decide where we will spend an eternity?
The whole lesson, until now, has been dedicated to a lifestyle of deception. James, in verse 27, will now contrast that with the gold standard. What should we expect from a real Christian? To have compassion for the less fortunate, to also be concerned about our own character, how we act, where we go, what we say, what we do, what we don’t do and even what we allow ourselves to think about. Is your Christianity fact or fiction?