I’ve been thinking a lot about hypocrisy since the U.S. presidential election because I’ve heard a lot of it, as I’m sure you have. It has caused me to think about what Jesus had to say about it while he was on Earth, as recorded in the Bible.
First of all, the word “hypocrite” is usually taken to mean a person whose actions do not match his words. In that regard, it usually refers to someone who expects something of others that he is not willing to do himself. It can also mean a person whose words or actions are not consistent in or for different situations. Jesus denounced the Pharisees of His day over and over for their hypocrisy. For example, in Matthew 15:7-8, Jesus says, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.'” In Matthew 7:5, which is the culmination of the well-known passage about judging others, Jesus says, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
In the “seven woes” chapter, Matthew 23, Jesus repeatedly denounces the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. In verses 13-15, Jesus says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.” These words sound harsh to our ears, but Jesus was speaking to people who not only professed to be God’s people, but who were leading God’s people!
One thing that should be clear by now is that Jesus was denouncing the hypocrisy of religious teachers who had rejected Him as Savior and Lord. What about those who are currently leaders of God’s people? Is it possible for them to be hypocritical as well? I’m sorry to say that the answer is yes. For example, some women came forward recently to say that a well-known, internationally-recognized Christian leader had behaved inappropriately towards them in a sexual manner. I was very saddened to hear that because this man (who went to heaven this year) was someone who I admired very much and learned a lot from. Unlike the vast majority of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, this man was a believer, but he will have to answer to the Lord. I have no doubt that you can come up with your own examples of such people as well.
What does all this have to do with modern politics? Simply this: those in politics are by definition leaders: not religious, mind you, but leaders nonetheless. Two prominent passages in Scripture that deal with political leadership are Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17. Romans 13:1 tells us, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” First of all, as Christians we are expected to obey those in political leadership. (There are exceptions, of course, but this post has a different focus.) Second, because those authorities have been established by God, those individuals in leadership are accountable to Him, and that’s why the post-election hypocrisy has been maddening at times. Here are three egregious examples:
- Before the election, our President and his supporters were vilified by the left (both political leaders and most of the media) for “super-spreader” rallies; they were accused of recklessly spreading COVID-19. Contrast that with crowds celebrating the apparent victory by our President’s opponent three days after the election; very few in the media denounced these rallies. While it’s true that mask-wearing was more common in the latter rallies than the former, social distancing was practiced in neither. (I also wrote about this phenomenon in June in a post called “A Christian Response to Recent U.S. Riots and Protests.”)
- The apparent winner of the presidential election has called for “unity” and “healing.” Compare that with his calling Trump supporters “chumps” prior to the election and his comparing Trump to the infamous Nazi leader Joseph Goebbels. There are also many others on the left who did their utmost to promote disunity throughout the last four years. Not only that, but there are leftists who are now calling for the keeping of lists of Trump “sycophants.” One prominent media leader, Jake Tapper, even tweeted this not-so-thinly-veiled threat to those on the right: “At a certain point one has to think not only about what’s best for the nation (peaceful transfer of power) but how any future employers might see your character defined during adversity.”
- Those on the right, including our President, are being told to “suck it up” and accept the (apparent) result of the presidential election because that’s what those on the left have had to do for the last four years. Really? First of all, many on the left have done anything but “suck it up” for the last four years. For example, Hillary Clinton demanded a recount in Wisconsin and other states in 2016 despite the relative absence of voting irregularities. Then even last year, during an interview with CBS, she stated, “He [Trump] knows he’s an illegitimate President.” Contrast Clinton’s demands for recounts in 2016 and her continuing refusal to accept that election outcome with the current demands for investigations into voting irregularities in last week’s election. In fact, what will be happening in some states over the coming weeks is not merely recounting votes but auditing them because of the multitude of documented voting irregularities of various kinds.
I suppose it’s obvious which direction I “lean” politically, so let me add this: four years ago, there were allegations of Russian “collusion,” which were investigated for two years, at great taxpayer expense, and ultimately found to not be credible. Why can’t we take a few weeks to investigate what happened last week?
The Lord holds those in leadership, whether religious or political, as well as whether they are His people or not, to a higher standard. Those who engage in hypocrisy will be held accountable. Although this post has been about hypocrisy in leadership, I should add that those of us who are not in leadership are accountable as well. As God’s people, let’s be men and women of integrity, which in its most basic sense means “wholeness.” We should be people who are whole and consistent in our words and actions.