Saturday, July 6, 2013

Price for Hypocrisy

       Being a Christian in the world is a challenging task. Not only is a disciple of Christ faced with many enticing temptations offered by the world, the believer also has been given much responsibility. One of those responsibilities is to behave and act like Christ. A Christian must behave and act like Christ in order to glorify God and at the same time display to the world an image of Jesus. Another responsibility is being a productive witness towards leading others to Christ. An example of these responsibilities is illustrated in many of the parable found in the new testament. One of the parables is located in Matthew 25:14-30. Here the Master allots various amounts of talents to 3 servants. Regardless of whether the servants were given five, two, or one talents the master expected a return on His investment. The parable portrays God's desire for Christians to as we say in the world "walk the talk", profess one's faith as well act it out in front of the world.
       Part of acting one's faith out is making disciples.
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20.
       Jesus commands us, His disciples to make new disciples of Christ. His command relates to us using our talents towards accomplishing what He desires from us. Being productive with our talents will enable us to make new disciples and build God's Kingdom.
       While building God's kingdom Christians also want to pay attention towards strengthening His Kingdom. Part of strengthening God's kingdom is not only making disciples but also educating them on God's Word and His ways. Our responsibility is to teach them how to be a productive disciple of Christ which brings us back to portraying to them through our own lives an image of Jesus.

A Warning Against Hypocrisy

23 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.
“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Seven Woes on the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees

13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. [14]
15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.
Matthew 23:1-15. 
       One of the most, or likely the most common complaint from the world against Christians is hypocrisy. Of course people who have read and understand the Bible know that Christians commit sins as well. No one who has lived in this world but Jesus Christ Himself was perfect, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus, (Romans 3:23-24). But most of the world does not understand or neglects this part of the Word, which increases the importance that we show ourselves a good example so that though they may not understand, through our witness and love they can at least catch a glimpse of the promises Christ has waiting for them. A promise much greater than what the world can offer them.
       Hypocrisy can be a great stumbling block to building God's Kingdom. Many times while attempting to teach an unbeliever why or why not a specific behavior or trend heavily glorified by the world is wrong, a witness for Christ is often approached with a taunting or an accusation of him, her, or Christians in general as being a hypocrite. Whether the title is deserved by the individual or not, the person witnessing should display  true love for the individual and people as a whole as one who is making great efforts toward sharing the good news of Christ as well as providing better option apart from what can be obtained from the world, an option full of good hope for a season of eternity compared to an option that is temporary and often deceiving. For the world has its own share of hypocrisies. How many times have individuals been advised of the "new thing", the "it factor", the can't lose option that is supposed to be an hundred percent winner only to come out disappointed. Many businesses and practices have had their high times only to close while leaving many jobless and broke. Inspirational musicians and talented artists have disappointed their loyal fans with their own weaknesses often consumed with drugs, crimes, and addictive sexual habits. Billions of dollars are spent each year selling people on playing the lottery. Odds of winning the Powerball lottery is 1 in 175,223,510. Odds of winning just a mere $4 in the same game is 1 in 55.41. The odds of becoming a professional athlete is 1 per 300,000 people. Odds of becoming an actor, if you are talented and good, are 1 in 23.  A lot of people will spend a lot of time, money, and energy trying to win, fulfill dreams and some will fail. The world may often look at some of these examples and snicker, some may make some news, but everyone will eventually move on. A christian making a bad step, especially one who is doing his or her job preaching the Word and holding others accountable, will face harsh criticisms as the disciples, or Christian leaders like Moses and Aaron did from their own fellow peers. Imagine a well known Christian leader like Andy Stanley, Billy Graham, Rick Warren, or retired NFL coach Tony Dungy, being involved in in a heavy media involved scandal that is deep in sin involving crime, money laundering, drugs, or something sexual in nature. One can imagine the number of media members, political leaders, celebrities, and people in general yelling out the words 'hypocrites" and using such an individual and his or her mistakes to condemn all Christians as well as Christ's message. This is what happens day to day and what provides fuel to many of the sins and denials of the authority of Christ committed today. Accusations and evidence of hypocrisy creates a greater acceptance of divorce, sex out of marriage, gay marriage, self indulgence, a high disregard for the Church, and a lower respect for Christians and Jesus Christ in general.
       As anybody who dutiful reads and studies the Bible, the world is supposed to grow worse as the day of Christ's return gets closer. So in a way we expect that the hearts and souls will turn colder to the Word of God and warmer towards idols and the desires of the flesh. The Christian is armed with the sharp, piercing sword, the Bible, and God's shield but must still have faith in the weapons provided as well as the provider. With faith enabling the Christian, the battle is still tough and the temptation to quit and give in to world as well as its master the devil still enticing but as the Word said there will be victory given by God to the ones who will remain faithful to Him to the end. 21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved Matthew 10:21-22.
     So what's the key. The key is to continue to have faith in God and to stay firm to the end. What is the answer to hypocrisy. The answer to hypocrisy is to continue to place one's faith in the Lord and stay firm to the end. If one has sinned, repent, then stay firm to the end. If one is accused of being a hypocrite, whether the accusation is on point or not, stay firm to the end. For we are the messengers of Christ. We are witnesses here on earth to spread the Word and help others to escape the fire that awaits those who refuse to follow His path. Those who accuse us can't judge us. They don't have the power or authority to send us to hell, only God does. And His word says that He will save us if we remain faithful to Him to the end. So let us remain faithful to the end. Let's place our faith and strength in the wonders of that which is in Christ as we share our message with the world in hopes of bringing others with us. Amen.