The great Zig Ziglar said, " A hypocrite is one who gripes and complains about all the sex, nudity and violence on his VCR."
While the technology may be a bit outdated, the point is not.
James tells us that "a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways."
A hypocrite is a person who says one thing but does another. It harms the faith and damages local churches. The Early Church was not exempt from this destructive behavior and God dealt with it severely. Here's the story:
"Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet. Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God." When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, "Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?" "Yes," she said, "that is the price." Peter said to her, "How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also." At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events." Acts 5:1-11
Well, that's one way to solve the hypocrisy problem. But I fear that if God killed all the hypocrites who populate the Church of Jesus Christ, we wouldn't have many Christians left.
In yesterday's post I made the point that Cain and Abel both wanted to please God but only Abel did it on God's terms while Cain tried to please God on his own terms. In short, he was disobedient.
The story of Aninas and Sapphira shows us another ugly facet of hypocrisy, trying to impress men with how spiritual you are.
As the Church in Jerusalem was exploding with growth, the needs were incredible. So, these committed, Spirit-filled believers were selling off their possessions and giving the proceeds to the Apostles to distribute to those in need. They gave willingly and they gave as they saw fit. There was no pressure or force place upon them. THAT is true faith!
Enter Ananias, who with his wife, sold a piece of property and decided to give a portion of the profit to the Church and tuck part of it away for themselves. There was nothing wrong with that. They could have kept the whole amount or they could have given the whole amount. These were free-will gifts.
Their hypocrisy developed when they decided to misrepresent their gift. When they brought it to the Apostles they claimed that they were giving the entire amount of their sale. Why would they do that?
Only one reason. They wanted to look more generous than they were. They wanted the Apostles to praise them and shine the spotlight on them. They wanted the other believers to admire them. Not good.
In their desire for praise and attention, they succumbed to the temptation of being man-pleasers rather than God-pleasers.
It is always bad to lie. Lying to the Holy Spirit can be fatal. Ananias and Sapphira are living (er - dying) proof of that. While hypocrisy will not kill you on the spot, as it did them, it certainly kills your spirit, kills your witness and damages the health of your church. It is highly destructive.
Being respected and admired by men is a strong desire in the human spirit. Often it is even stronger than the desire to please God. That is the double-mindedness that James refers to that leads to unstable behavior.
Will you take a moment and ask God to search your spirit to see if your desire to please man is stronger than it should be? Will you commit to being single-minded in your pursuit of God?