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The House Church Network: Dedicated to Kingdom Expansion
Why Are There So Many Hypocrites in Church?

"I won't go to church because of all the hypocrites there. Why are there so many hypocrites in church?"

Certainly this has long been a criticism lodged against the church, and it is a criticism well deserved. The church IS full of hypocrites. Always has been, always will be.


Before we delve into the why, we first need to understand just what a hypocrite is. According to Webster, a hypocrite is "One who affects virtues or qualities [one] does not have." In other words, someone who claims to be what they aren't. Like perfect. Or righteous. Or even good.

And to be honest, there aren't many who fully qualify for any of the three. And yet, the church is full of people who claim to be Christian, which means literally "Christ-like," and heaven knows there aren't a lot of people in (or out) of our churches who can hold a candle to the virtues of Christ.

So in this sense, the church is indeed full of hypocrites--even I claim to be a Christian, but I'm as far from Christ-like as we come.

The problem is, the charge that the church is full of hypocrites is typically an accusation that the church is full of people who are "self-righteous" and "holier-than-thou."

Unfortunately, this charge is too often true as well. From before the time of Jesus, religious institutions have been full of people who may practice a couple of the virtues, such as giving, or scholarship, and then feel they are somehow superior to those who haven't achieved "their level" of virtue. Jesus spent a good part of his ministry addressing these kind of people, even to the point of calling them names such as "brood of vipers" (Matthew 23.33) and "whitewashed tombs" (Matthew 23.27). Indeed, these are the kind of people who are likely inferred in the parable of the wheat and the weeds in Matthew 13.

But why are these kind of people so attracted to church? For one, the church has historically been a haven for the broken-hearted and broken spirited, a place for these to seek solace and comfort from God and God's people. In a place where people actually claim to be less than perfect, it is easy for those needing to feel "holier-than-thou" to do so among these broken people.

But there may be another reason why these people frequent the church. Those who exhibit such superiority over others suffer from a lack of self-esteem, which translates into a need for the spiritual virtue of humility. To be humble one must be aware of their own gifts, talents, and virtues and then come to understand just how obligated, responsible, and indebted they are for these gifts. For those who lack self-esteem and who cover their needs with an air of superiority, their arrival at church may be a silent cry of their own brokenness and their spiritual need.

The church was never meant to be a social club for the saints, instead it was created to be a hospital for the broken--all the broken. The poor in spirit, the broken-hearted, and even the hypocrites and the self-righteous are all welcomed into the church, for none of us are really what we ought.

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