Why We Love Hypocrites
The faithful city has become a whore! She that was full of justice, righteousness lodged in her—but now murderers! Your princes are rebels and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts. They do not defend the orphan. The widow’s cause does not come before them. Therefore says the Mighty One of Israel: I will pour out my wrath and avenge myself on my foes! – Isaiah 1:21 & 23-24 (NRSV)
Oh goody! Isaiah is on a rampage against the hypocrisy of the powerful!
These sorts of texts, and there are several in the Bible, make me want to whip up some popcorn and enjoy the show. Before I do that, please join me for a quick, self-reflective, breath.
A hypocrite is someone who does the very thing they criticize or condemn. It’s an especially infuriating habit of politicians we already don’t like, but hypocrites of all stripes are anathema to people of integrity, consistency of character and walking the walk. But if no one is perfect, I can’t follow my ideologies perfectly either. And guess what that makes me?
Which is why pointing out someone else’s hypocrisy, the huger the better, is a great way to deflect attention from my own inconsistencies. “Hey look! There’s a way bigger hypocrite over there! Light the torches! Sharpen those pitchforks!”
That said, the Bible rarely has harsh words for amateur, run-of-the-mill hypocrites like you and me, but don’t take that as free license. God’s wrath is reserved for powerful people who are corrupted and blinded by their own greed. God wouldn’t be so worked up about it if God didn’t have a special concern for the poor and marginalized who often pay the price for the depravity of self-serving princes.
If Isaiah can out big time hypocrites in God’s name, we can too. Just remember there was only one person who was free of hypocrisy, only one who truly walked the walk to find and forgive every duplicitous human. That one is coming soon.
God, when my words and walk don’t match, silence my words and put me back on Your way.
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first two books, The Spinner Prince and The Four Guardians are available now.