The Hypocrisy of Virtue


“Beware of no man more than of yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us.” – Charles Spurgeon

I’ll never forget the conversation I had with my little girl about a week after she started kindergarten.

Stephanie seemed upset as I was tucking her into bed that evening, so I asked her if anything was wrong. She looked at me sadly and said, “Daddy, it’s so hard to be good, and it’s so easy to get into trouble.”

Oh, little girl, truer words were never spoken!

I hated to have to tell her that she was right, and that it was pretty much the way life is. We are never more than one step away from stepping in it, and the road we travel in this life is fraught with peril.

If you are a Christian, you have a big advantage in dealing with the problems of life, since you are acquainted with the Creator of the universe. Knowing God, and living as a recipient of his mercy and guidance, certainly gives you a leg up on anyone in the world who is struggling to make sense of it all without any divine revelation.

The problem is, even though we know God, and have received the salvation that Jesus died to secure for us, we are still sinful human beings. We are simply sinful human beings who have been redeemed by his grace.

I love to talk to people about the Lord because he has been so good to me. He reached down and rescued me at the lowest point of my life.

In my hour of greatest need, when I was convinced that God had rejected me, he graciously wrapped his arms around me and lifted my soul up into the glory of his presence.

I can never forget what he did for me. I could spend the rest of eternity recounting the multitudes of ways that he has blessed me, guided me, and loved on me in these ensuing years.

God is good, and truly his mercies are new every morning. I can never thank him enough.

However, like the little girl said, it is hard to be good, and so easy to get into trouble.

Christians are called to be witnesses for God before an unbelieving world. The Bible says that we are ambassadors for Christ, and that we serve as priests with a ministry of reconciliation. We are supposed to let our light shine before men so that they will praise our Father in heaven.

At the last supper, Jesus told his disciples that the world would know that we were his followers by the love that we showed for one another.

You have probably noticed that most professing Christians have not done a very good job of completing these assignments. Anyone who knows me can testify that my daily living falls pathetically short of ideal Christian behavior.

Most of us repeatedly fail at righteous living. Temptations hide around every corner, stumbling blocks litter the sidewalks, and our own sinful natures constantly battle against us.

Every morning when your feet hit the floor, a new day of spiritual warfare begins. You live in a battle zone, and it is important that you realize it. Otherwise, you can be ensnared and caught unaware by an enemy who wants to destroy your life and your soul. We live in a fallen world, and living right will never come naturally to us.

So it is hard to go out into the world, and share the good news of the gospel with people we know, because all they have to do is look at us to see that we aren’t doing all that great a job of living for God ourselves.

I call this conundrum the Hypocrisy of Virtue.

The people closest to you know what you are really like. They know how you drive like a maniac when you are late. How grumpy you get with your family when you are in a bad mood. How you called in sick at work because you stayed up too late the night before and wanted to sleep in.

They know when you are selfish, or spiteful, or harsh with someone else. The list could go on and on.

Unrepentant sinners like to use our failings to excuse themselves from getting serious with God. If their hearts are hard, they can look at us and tell themselves, “I’m not so bad. That hypocrite Dave is trying to talk to me about God, and look what a schmuck he is.”

Thankfully, Jesus looks upon us with more compassion. Yes, Dave is a schmuck, but by God’s grace, he is now a redeemed schmuck!

He is doing better now than he ever did before. He is not yet where he is supposed to be, but he is not stuck way back where he used to be, either.

I keep a little magnet on my refrigerator that always encourages me. It is shaped like a caterpillar, and the caption reads:

      Please be patient, God isn’t finished with me yet.

We are all “works in progress.” That is one reason we need to focus more attention on our own shortcomings and less on those of others. You never know what turmoil someone else may be going through, and you never know how God is dealing with them.

You cannot avoid doing business with God by trying to excuse yourself because so many Christians are hypocrites. As Bill Clinton likes to say, “That dog won’t hunt.”

You still have to answer to God for your own life. Until you humble yourself before him, admit that you need his mercy, and ask Jesus to forgive your sins and take control of your life, you are lost forever. Whatever my failings may be, they do not excuse you from anything.

I might be the most pathetic Christian on earth. I might fail God countless times every day. Fortunately for me, Jesus never quits. He is going to work with me until the day I die to help me grow up and make something of myself. And he will do the same for you!

So I will take the risk of being labeled a hypocrite. At the end of my days, I would rather stand before God as a failed saint than a successful sinner.


(This post is excerpted from the book Jesus Is Trying To Get Your Attention.)


About David Smith

I help small business owners produce email promotions, newsletters, and websites.
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