A common theme in politics leading up to this election has been the attempt by various candidates to brand their opponent as a hypocrite. This is somewhat amusing to me because it could be argued that political campaigns and hypocrisy are almost synonymous terms. It is true however that amid the deception that often exists in the political arena, people do not like their politicians to be hypocrites, especially when they get caught in outright lies. In the day and age we live in, that includes instantaneous news transmitted to the public the moment there is a gaffe or action that contradicts a previous position or statement. Often this creates a situation where there is no place to hide for these public figures, and causes them seek to change the topic of conversation to one that favors their position. Unfortunately the level of scrutiny in our high tech world hasn’t eliminated the existence of hypocrisy, and in fact, seems to only elevate the level of polarization between the opposing sides.
As believers we are constantly in a campaign to influence people for the kingdom of God, and the challenges are similar to those in the political arena. Probably the number one reason people give for not wanting to be a follower of Christ is the hypocrisy that people see in Christians and so called religious people. In Matthew 6:1 Jesus said, “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” As believers we should be careful not to go to church, pray, give, worship, or even attend a Christian school in order to impress people. If we do so, we are hypocrites. The principle Jesus is teaching in this verse is how we should practice our righteousness and religious acts without being hypocrites. Jesus warns us not to do good works just to be noticed by people, but as Christians we should do these things for the glory of God. Every day, people carefully evaluate all of us who claim to be Christians, as to our motivation and consistency in our Christian walk. They are quick to point out those times when we seem to be preaching something for others to follow, that we are not practicing ourselves.
In this passage in Matthew, Jesus gives several practical examples of what our motivations should be for doing good works. For instance, he points out the responsibility we have to care for people with needs. Jesus was warning us about helping the wrong way. In Matthew 6:2-4 he said, “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.” The way God receives the glory is found in verse 3. “Don’t let your right hand know what the left hand is doing.” This is an expression of secrecy, not of minimizing giving, even public giving. Practically speaking, it is about giving in a way that is between ourselves and God only. If we give where only God knows about it, we can’t boast or be proud. Here at school, our students recognize when a teacher pours their life into their work with a heart of love and concern, with no desire for recognition. I believe that God will reward all of those countless hours a teacher gives that no one ever knows about. It is no different being a parent. Most of our children never realize until they are adults just how selfless a parent must be in sacrificing for their children, just because they love them.
Another example that Jesus gave in this passage, and maybe one that we have the opportunity to practice the most here at school, is the example of forgiveness. Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive men when they sin against you. Your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Forgiveness is like a two way street, if it is open to receive God’s forgiveness, it is open to forgive others. If it is closed in either direction it is closed to both and can affect our fellowship with God and with people and rob us of the joy of our salvation. The opportunity to practice this principle of forgiveness in front of our children is available literally every day at home or here at school. Whether it is forgiving a person who disrespected you, or a co-worker who offended you, or a boss who didn’t seem to hear you out, the opportunities are clearly there.
When the polls close and the election is complete, the trading of the accusations of hypocrisy will diminish until the next election cycle. Those who are elected will have the opportunity to prove their sincerity and fulfill their promises by their actions. In the end, their true intentions will be revealed, and they will be judged by their actions, their record, and their true motivations, not by rhetoric and innuendo.
It is no different for us as believers, because at the end of the day it is not necessarily about what we say, it is about having the right motivation for what we do for Christ. If our true motivation is to be obedient to God and follow the example of Christ in all we do, then our testimony for Him will be noticed by those we influence. More importantly, if our motivation is right and Jesus Christ is lifted up by the life we live, we will influence others to become followers of Christ and join us in His service.