Almost two weeks ago I handed out candy to dozens of children in costumes. I saw firemen, bunnies, penguins and even a zombie or two. My nephew may have been convinced otherwise but I recognized that these weren’t real penguins and bunnies coming to my door. They were kids. Kids wearing masks and costumes. They may have looked like a fireman (and may have even acted like one) but I knew what they really were. They were just kids (and sadly a couple of teenagers who seemed to be having a difficult time letting go of their childhood).
If you spend very much time talking to a non-Christian about your faith, don’t be surprised if you hear them make the broad claim that, “Christians are hypocrites.” They state that they know many people who claim to be Christians but really live their life no different than the world. While I don’t believe that all Christians are hypocrites I do know that hypocrisy in the church is a massive problem. It’s something I have even struggled with on my own in the past. Some Christians, just like those children who came trick-or-treating at my door, may look like Christians and may even act like Christians on occasion. On the inside though, they are just like the world. It’s a problem that the Bible tells us we need to address.
Look at the way that Jesus dealt with the Pharisees. These men were the religious hot shots of the day. They spent time in the synagogues and around the temple. They knew the Law and the Prophets inside and out. These guys would have won the Bible Bowl every year if they competed. They gave large sums of money to the temple. They could be seen in public praying and worshipping. From the outside, the Pharisees were as religious as you could be. Jesus, being the Son of God, was able to see through these things though. In Matthew 23:27-28 He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full or hypocrisy and lawlessness” (NASB). It didn’t matter to Jesus that the Pharisees were trying to appear religious. He was concerned with their hearts! The Pharisees may have been able to fool the people but Jesus saw right through them. God never calls us to “look” religious. He calls for us to surrender our lives to Him.
We may not be able to change the way the whole world views Christianity but we can start with our own heart. Each Christian must examine their own life and determine whether they are living their life as a Christian or whether they are merely playing “dress up.” The fact is, Christianity is not a mask that we can put on and take off when it’s convenient for us. Too often we put on our Christian costume in public and take it off when we come home at night. In fact, we may only put it on when we go to church on Sunday and hang it back up during the rest of the week. That’s simply not the way it works. Our faith is not something we can put on and take off. Our appearance should not be an attempt to hide what is inside but it should be a reflection of what is in our heart.
The question we must each ask is, are we living as Christians? Or are we living like the Pharisees, only doing what it takes to appear religious? Only you can answer that question for yourself. Do we go to church on Sunday and to filthy movies on Saturday night because the world tells us it’s funny? Can we name all 66 books from the Bible but can’t name the last time we spoke to someone about Jesus? Do we have perfect attendance at Wednesday night Bible class but are no longer striving to live a perfect life? True Christianity is not a costume. It is a complete and total dedication to Christ in EVERY aspect of our life. Hypocrisy is a large problem in the church today but it is a problem we can fix. The solution starts with the individual. It’s time we take off the Christian costume and allow ourselves to “be transformed” from the inside out (Romans 12:1-2).
Calling a child a bunny doesn’t make them any less of a child. Calling yourself a Christian changes nothing unless you change who you are on the inside.
What needs to change in your life?