Understanding Hypocrisy

The power of hypocrisy is that it proves something to be false. But maybe not the thing you think. Veganism isn’t proven false by a vegan who has three exception days a week. Her belief in veganism is proven false.

Or consider what environmentalism hypocrisy says about the movement. We are told that the situation with climate change is an emergency. But many (most?) of the advocates don’t act like it is an emergency. What does this prove about environmentalism? It does not prove that climate change is false. It proves that environmentalists say one thing with their mouths and another with their lifestyles.[1] If they believe the hysteria, then wouldn’t they at least fly commercial instead of the private Learjets and Gulfstreams? Or not fly at all? Wouldn’t they avoid the Limo? Yet outside the UN Climate Summit, how many limousines are parked? Again, hypocrisy doesn’t prove falsity. It proves that many climate changers don’t believe what they say they believe. This has been an enduring feature of the “justice” and outrage causes of the left.

Paul Johnson’s book Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky demonstrates that the intellectual class is the leftists. Johnson argues that one of the biggest issues with the intellectual class is that they seldom actually live by the ideas that they propound. In other words, the people on the left are hypocrites. One high-profile example of hypocrisy comes from the former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, who brought an entourage aboard his personal Falcon 900 to Copenhagen, at a cost in carbon emissions that was thirty-seven times more than if the group had flown commercial. The reason for the trip? Mr. Bloomberg was speaking at a conference on climate change.[2]

The point is that a person can claim to believe one thing, but as James 2:14-26 says, actions prove what a person believes. When environmentalists live life functionally like there is no emergency, I’m inclined to think they don’t believe there is an emergency. Likewise, when Christians live life functionally like there is no wrath to come, I’m inclined to think they don’t believe the Bible. Shouldn’t we hold our own kind to the same hypocrisy standard we hold the environmentalists to?

Jesus spoke about a certain kind of religious hypocrisy in Mark 7:6-7, “And he said to them, ‘Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” According to Jesus, hypocrisy has to do with how the inner person (the heart) interacts with the outer person (the lips). John Milton said that hypocrisy was invisible because it begins within.

For neither Man nor Angel can discern
Hypocrisy, the only evil that walks
Invisible except to God alone[3]

John Milton

Obadiah Sedgwick, another Puritan, said: “The souls of men…have a secret way contrary to open profession.”[4] Hypocrisy is when there is an unclear and disputed interaction between the inside and the outside. Jesus says that traditions become sinful when they focus merely on the outside. The traditions of the Pharisees stood in opposition to the Word of God, yet they appeared to accomplish a righteous purpose. For this, Jesus calls them hypocrites, a word that refers to an actor who would put on a mask and pretend to be something he was not. This type of hypocrisy takes the form of self-presentation that has the appearance of virtue.[5]

It’s not enough to say, “Everyone is a hypocrite,” true though it may be. Christians need to be on guard against hypocrisy. There is hypocrisy natural to man which is on display in every human being—a parent yells at his kids to stop yelling. There is a hypocrisy that is occasional and represents only a temporary inconsistency—a flash of jealousy over a friend’s success. And there is the soul-crushing religious hypocrisy that Jesus spoke about—a buttoned-up presence at church joined with a prayerless and spiteful life at home.

The Bible reminds us that God knows and sees all. Whether your hypocrisy is natural, occasional, or religious, you need to confess it to the Lord who already knows. God doesn’t miss a thing, which means that when Christ died as the Paschal Lamb, he didn’t miss any of the sins of any of his people. Jesus died for and paid the price for every one of them, including the secret sins. Shall we go on sinning that grace may abound? By no means! God’s grace flows like blood and water. The blood covers the sin and the water makes us clean, new, transformed, and alive.[6]

[1] See the following link for an example of climate scientists who do live according to their beliefs.


[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/11/nyregion/battling-climate-change-from-the-back-seat-of-an-suv.html?mtrref=www.google.com

[3] John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book III; 684

[4] Obadiah Sedgwick, The Anatomy of Secret Sins, Presumptuous Sins, Sins in Dominion, and Uprightness (London, 1660), 15.

[5] Wilfred McClay, A Student’s Guide to History, pg 81.

[6] Mark Jones, Knowing Sin: Seeing a Neglected Doctrine Through the Eyes of the Puritans (Chicago: Moody, 2022), 98f.

Published by Jason Cherry

Jason Cherry is an elder at Trinity Reformed Church in Huntsville, Alabama, as well as a teacher and lecturer of literature, history, and economics at Providence Classical School in Huntsville. He graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary with an MA in Religion and is the author of the book The Culture of Conversionism and the History of the Altar Call and The Making of Evangelical Spirituality (Wipf and Stock).