by Steven Chan
16 March 2008
On Monday (March 10, 2008) this week, the New York Times revealed that the Governor of New York State was linked to a high end prostitution ring as a client and the scandal surprised many. Many remember the Governor, Eliot Spitzer as the former state attorney general who aggressively prosecuted high-powered Wall Street executives for insider trading and other violations of securities laws. One man reportedly commented, “He’s pulled a lot of people through the mud, and look what he’s done! The hypocrisy is incredible.” Another one mentioned thus: “I felt, when he was running for governor, that he was running on high standards and that he had high standards.”
It was later reported that the governor issued an apology: “I have acted in a way that violates my obligations to my family and violates my, or any, sense of right or wrong,” the governor said. “I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public to whom I promised better. I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself. I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family.”
As we read of this unfortunate incident, we ought to be reminded that our Lord Jesus Christ warned many, especially the religious leaders of the Jews of the great danger of hypocrisy: “He began to say to His disciples first of all, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known” (Luke 12:1-2). In Matt 23:28-29, Jesus charged the scribes and Pharisees of hypocrisy: “Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” According to the ISBE, the meaning of hypocrisy is “acting a part, false, deceptive and deceived, formally and outwardly religious and good, but inwardly insincere and unrighteous; the hypocrite may come to deceive himself as well as others, but “the hypocrite’s hope shall perish” (Job 8:13)”. Even the apostle Peter was accused by the apostle Paul as being guilty of hypocrisy in Gal. 2:11-14. The apostle Paul warned the young preacher Timothy of the danger of false teachers who “speak lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Tim 4:2).
The Bible warns all Christians in 1 Peter 2:1-3 to lay aside hypocrisy: “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all guile, hypocrisy , envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” In Matt 24:51, Jesus said that the servant who failed to do the will of the master shall have “his portion with the hypocrites; where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” We learn from Matt 13:49-50 that that is the place of furnace of fire where all the wicked will spend eternity: “So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” Hence, the Bible tells us very clearly that hypocrites are destined for the furnace of fire where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
In Rom 2:1-3, the Bible warns against the practice of judging and condemning others when we are guilty of the same sins: “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?” It is in this sort of context that Jesus taught in Matt 7:1-5: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye”
We all need to be careful about the danger of hypocrisy and its leavening influence on all those around us. When brethren see that we are hypocrites or are acting in a hypocritical manner then their faith would be affected while others may be emboldened to do likewise (i.e. act hypocritically as happened with the Christian Jews when influenced by the apostle Peter in Gal 2:13: “And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.”)
It was said of Governor Eliot Spitzer that “so often the new governor seemed to accumulate enemies for sport, to threaten rivals with destruction when a disingenuous slap on the back might do just as well”. It was observed that Governor Eliot employed “aggressive tactics, threatening to crush his opponents, his office extracted vast civil settlements from defendants eager to avoid criminal indictment. But his style wed toughness to what looked to some like bullying.” His style sounds very similar to some of our zealots. The Bible warned that when one corrects another who is in error that one ought to do so with gentleness: Gal 6:1: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” 2 Tim 2:24-26: “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” It is often very sad to see such a spirit missing in many of those who endeavour to contend for the faith. When one seeks to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3) and demand strict and immediate compliance by others to toe the line (i.e. to conform to a rule or a standard) or face the wrath of being written up and subject to public odium (which unfortunately in many instances tantamount to toeing their own self drawn lines!), one ought to be aware that one may be in danger of acting hypocritically in some other situations where one fails to toe even one’s own lines! When one fails to take heed of the admonition of the Scriptures that one ought to be gentle and look to oneself lest one also be tempted (Gal 6:1), then one may one day find oneself in the same position as the unfortunate Governor of the New York State. But worse still, if one does not repent from one’s hypocrisy, then one may find oneself in the furnace of fire where there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matt 24:51). Beware of hypocrisy and ‘let love be without hypocrisy.” (Rom 12:9)