This is Day 11 of my 40 day Lenten Blog.
Christ has some pretty harsh things to say about hypocrites. "Woe unto you," He proclaims before pointing out the hypocrisy of the teachers of the law and Pharisees. And when an adulterous woman is brought before Him to be stoned to death in compliance with the law of Moses He tells her judges that the one without sin should throw the first stone.
Am I a hypocrite? Yes. At least, I have committed the sin of hypocrisy from time to time. And it is a terrible sin, one which we need to confess when we commit it. Christians are often accused of being hypocrites. And sometimes we are, because we are human and thus sinners. But what is hypocrisy and how can I avoid it?
In his excellent book Humility of Heart, Father Cajetan Mary da Bergamo defines hypocrisy as "a vice by which we affect to demonstrate externally a virtue and sanctity which we do not possess; and he is really a hypocrite who, being full of wickedness within, pretends in his outward appearance to be good." In other words, if I pretend to be good, but am actually evil then I am a hypocrite.
The easiest way to avoid being a hypocrite is to admit that I am not good and admit with St. Paul that I am the worst of sinners. As Christ tells me, I must remove the log from my own eye before helping my brother remove the speck from his.
This is especially true when dealing with our kids and grandkids. We need to correct our children. God will not be happy with us if we allow our children to fall into wickedness without correction. But when correcting our children we need to admit our own failings.
"Don't yell at your brothers. I know you've seen Daddy lose his temper and yell, too. I shouldn't have. And neither should you."
We also need to apologize when we have wronged someone. Again, this is especially true for our children. "Daddy shouldn't have lost his temper. I'm sorry. You know Daddy's not perfect. I need God's grace just as much as you do."
Too often the sin of pride prevents us from admitting our faults--especially when we think our faults are minor. For example, everyone acknowledges that it is a sin to cheat on your spouse. But it is just as much of a sin to look at pornography. It is just as much of a sin to look with lust at someone who is not your spouse. It is just as much of a sin to gossip about the person cheating on his or her spouse.
When we realize that the "little sins" we commit darken our hearts and turn us from God just as much as the "major sins"* we can begin to admit our own sinfulness is just as bad as anyone else's. Then we will no longer be hypocrites.
*I do not mean the difference between venial and mortal sins. I mean mortal sins that are seen as worse than other mortal sins. Jesus gave the examples of murder compared to hate, and adultery compared to lust.
R.C. VanLandingham is the author of the Peter Puckett series, a Christian children's fantasy that explores what it means to know and love Christ through exciting adventures. His books and blog can be found at rcvanlandingham.com.