by Tad Lindley
He thought that he had me in checkmate, “Do you realize there’s a man in your church who drinks beer?” In between the lines he was trying to destroy the credibility of the church based on the behavior of people that were attending. Now of course I knew that this fellow at church was drinking beer. In fact it was worse than that. He wasn’t just drinking it, he was manufacturing it in a local option situation which is a class whatever felony pursuant to AS 04.11.491(a).
Not a Mr. Holiness competition
Weightlifters have the Mr. Universe competition, the cosmetics and fashion industry have the Ms. America competition, and some people think that the church should be a Mr. Holiness and Mrs. Holiness competition. They expect that when they come to church, they will see only the finest specimens of righteous and holy living in the town. Then when they see someone with a snuff can in their back pocket, or someone cramping up with a runny nose, because they’re out of money and out of heroin the thought comes to their mind, “What are they doing here? Hypocrites. This church must be full of hypocrites, I’m never coming back again!”
Try this one on for size
Imagine you go to the YKHC hospital here for a checkup. YKHC prides itself on competent health care. But when you are waiting to be seen, you notice that there are some sick people in the waiting room. You tell yourself, “What a joke. These guys are hypocrites. This is supposed to be a “health” corporation and yet the waiting area is full of sick people. I’m outta here!” Inasmuch as a hospital is for people who are trying to get healthier, the church is a place where people at all stages of spiritual growth are trying to get closer to God. In fact when they confronted Jesus for allowing sinners to be in his circle of friends he told them this, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor–sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (Mark 2:17 NLT)
When the doctor has booze on his breath
Suppose you go to see the doctor and he’s got booze on his breath, wheezing, 200 pounds overweight, pack of Lucky Strikes in his pocket, crumbs on his tie, and a bag of pork rinds on the counter. If he was a patient in the waiting room, no big deal, but he’s not, he’s the doctor. We have to ask ourselves, “Do I want to take life-prolonging health advice from this guy?” Of course not, because the moment he tells you to quit tobacco or quit eating chips you realize he is a hypocrite.
Drunken priests hit by lightning
Switch back to the church. God has a higher standard for those who serve in church leadership. Starting with Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10, the ministry has been held to a higher standard. Apparently these guys showed up drunk and attempted to worship the Lord. It didn’t end well for them. The committed saints (saints as in the Bible meaning of the word, which is to say church members) of God are going to be the first ones judged by God: For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God…(I Peter 4:17)
Don’t confuse a help-seeker with a hypocrite
Just because a dope smoker or a gambling addict is going to church, it does not make them a hypocrite. If they are drawn by God and on a collision course with repentance please do not mistake them for a hypocrite. On the other hand, if someone is in a position of leadership and living in unrepentant sin, they are a hypocrite. We want nicotine addicts coming to church, however, if the preacher gets up in the pulpit once on Wednesday and twice on Sunday and preaches about the delivering power of God, but then is having a snuff every night after dinner, something doesn’t line up. We want drug addicts coming to church, but if the choir leader smokes a little crack, (but only when she goes to Anchorage), then how can she lead songs like He Set me Free? We want people who don’t understand the Bible’s teaching on lifestyle in the house of God, but if the special singer gets up and he’s got a ponytail, or she’s got a haircut, how can they sincerely sing songs like I Surrender All (see I Corinthians 11:1-16 for how God wants our hair to look). We want gambling addicts to hear about the power in the name of Jesus, but how can a Sunday school teacher teach the kids songs about J-E-S-U-S when he spends five nights a week hoping he can yell, “B-I-N-G-O!”? We want couples who are shacking up to come for Bible study, but when nothing changes and we put them into a position of Youth Leader, we are completely undermining the teaching of Jesus on fornication (Matthew 15:19, I Corinthians 6:9).
Are there hypocrites in the house?
I hope that we have alcoholics and drug addicts and people struggling with all manner of sin coming to church. That is what Jesus came for, to call us out of darkness into his marvelous light (I Peter 2:9). Now I hope that those same people after a short period of time surrender their lives to the grace and power of Jesus Christ. When an unrepentant sinner comes into a house of prayer it does not make them a hypocrite. A hypocrite is a person who is masquerading as believing the Bible, a piano player, a choir member, a preacher, a teacher, and yet they are blatantly disregarding the teachings of the Bible. If there is such a person who has the spirit of Nadab and Abihu, then they need to be asked to step down until they have repented of their disobedience and demonstrated that they can live a holy and separate life. If they refuse to do that, then perhaps like the money changers of old (John 2:13-16), it’s time for them to go lest the church have hypocrites in its midst.
Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, AK.