Read Luke 12.
In verse 1, Jesus warned the disciples about the “yeast of the Pharisees” which he defined as “hypocrisy.” The hypocrisy he had in mind has four elements:
- Create a system of rules that define what godliness is. These can be based on biblical commands but made specific and rigid.
- Live by that system rigorously on the outside.
- Be hard on people who don’t abide by the system of rules.
- Sin privately, if you think you can get away with it. Your sin can be a private violation of the rules you say you live by or it can be a violation in other areas.
Let me make up an example. Here in Luke 12:21 Jesus condemned someone who “stores up things for themselves.” Let’s say I take that phrase out of context and say, “This means it is wrong to save money in a bank account. You should have no bank accounts because that is a place to store up things for yourself. Instead, you should spend money as you need it and give the rest away.” Let’s run this example through the four elements listed above:
- Create a system of rules: “Don’t store up things for yourself” = never have a bank account.
- Live by that system on the outside: I close all my bank accounts, sell all the assets I have and give the proceeds away.
- Be hard on people who don’t abide by the system: I start protesting outside banks with signs that say, “God hates banks.” I rail against bank customers coming in and out and, if I see someone writing a check in a store, I give that person a hard time about their sin.
- Sin privately: Unknown to you, I shrink-wrap thousands of dollars in cash and store it in my attic. Or maybe I do have a bank account my wife’s name or in the name of some corporation that I own.
So, personally, I don’t have a bank account. By any technical definition, I am living righteously as I have defined it. But my shrink-wrapped cash and/or my bank account in someone else’s name is a way to store value for myself. By my definition of sin and righteousness, I’m technically righteous.
But in reality, I’m disobedient to Luke 12:21 (as I have incorrectly interpreted it) by storing up value for myself in another way.
According to this example, I’m a hypocrite.
Hypocrisy is like yeast in the sense that a little bit expands until it permeates everything just like yeast expands until it ferments an entire loaf of bread. Once I start feeling good about the rule I’ve made and how I’ve been able to live up to it and condemn others, I’ll make more rules.
But hypocrisy doesn’t always involve manmade rules. We can be hypocrites if we demand obedience to clear and true commands of scripture while privately disobeying them. So,
- Are you hard on others for a sin that you secretly enjoy?
- Do you condemn others who fail to do right even though you don’t do right in that area either?
If so, then Jesus said: “You’re a hypocrite.” While none of us is perfectly consistent, the hypocrite is harsh when condemning the failings of others yet, s/he makes excuses for their own failures in the same area.
And, since hypocrisy grows and spreads like yeast, eventually your hypocrisy in one area will invade and corrupt other areas of your life. One problem with living in hypocrisy, however, is that eventually your secrets will be known (vv. 2-3). This fact should give us greater sense of humility and a deeper compassion for sinners who may struggle more obviously with the areas where we struggle as well.
Are you living in hypocrisy? Are you projecting a life of obedience and holiness while attempting to hide sin in your own life? Repent–change your mind–and ask God to help you root out the hypocrisy in your life.
None of us is perfect. We all struggle with things we know to be sinful; that’s not hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is pretending not to struggle and being hard on those who are. It is an additional sin, layered on top of other sins you commit.