How not to be a hypocrite & the charge against false hypocrisy

How not to be a hypocrite & the charge against false hypocrisy


“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:1-5

That is, perhaps one of the most misconstrued messages of Christ in my opinion. Fallacious use of the former is so common and so ordinary that it is hard to describe it. You may have heard it too a lot of times. Things like, you have no right to say it to me, you are hypocrite, you do not fully walk the Christian life and you blame me. These and a huge variety of other sentences that carry the same message, You have no right to stop me because you are also imperfect and (insert any bad thing here you know about the person pointing out your fault). You can not stop me because you have a plank in your eye as well, mister.

Image courtesy of shrink4men.com

I got the same message from my brother the other day. Since I am mostly busy in work, I do not get to share a lot of time with my siblings. And that specific day they had a little quarrel about something and when I intervened they told me to stay out since I do not spend much time with them I do not have the right to advise them on anything. Even though what I was telling them was right and in my opinion, the most easy way to end the thing, yet I could not get across, I was barred even before I could step in. Why? Because I have a plank in my eye, they said.

Some of you might have gone through the same thing, I know someone who tried to tell his brother to stop using drugs and the brother replied back that since his brother smoked too once, he doesn’t have a right to stop him. I know mothers who have been told by their kids to “shut up” because they had a boyfriend too once, even though the mother is trying to stop her child from emotional pain or hurt.  In the end its just the same reasoning “How can you stop me? You did this too, you know. You have got a plank in your eye, how can you remove mine?”

Now the thing is, hypocrisy comes in many forms and shapes just the same as men. But what exactly does the term hypocrisy entails, in this specific context which Christ taught. Many people simply use the this verse or its implied meaning which has so much absorbed in our daily understanding of life that most people use this without even knowing of the principle behind it. (Careful I am not saying that anyone can not think of it on their own, namely that most people of religious household may have gotten the thing as teaching while others may have gotten it out of movies and cultural understanding of the principle, no matter how it came about to be so is irrelevant here.)

But in this example of Christ, what does the passage logically entails, is it:

1. We can not stop anyone doing something if we have done it or are doing it ourselves.

2. We can not stop someone from doing anything wrng because we have done something wrong and may come sounding more as “holier than thou” even if we do not mean it.

Does this make us a hypocrite?

And the answer is, yes, it does. But here is the thing and where logic must precede the emotional appeal, the hypocrisy is not in the act of stopping or pointing out something wrong. No, for heavens sake that is the trap of the whole argument. The hypocrisy is to carry on the act in question yourself. That’s the hypocrisy. In other words the meaning of the passage is to not to not condemn something awful or hurting but to stop doing it yourself too. Most people, parents. elders and young people too at times, often find themselves at peril when they are called hypocrites for pointing out the right thing. But remember even if they may themselves be hypocrites, the receiver of that advise has the obligation on intellectual grounds to see the wisdom of what is being conveyed to him.

In other words, do not judge the man, judge the act in question. That is exactly what Christ meant, a judgement call on someone on personal grounds is of course hypocrisy. But the condemnation of an act if that act is certainly wrong on objective morals, is not hypocrisy, its called pointing out the obvious. If your criticism stands on firm logic and not on personal vendetta than you are not being a hypocrite. In fact most of the time people being accused of hypocrisy are doing it for love and care.

A mother crying because his son won’t listen to her because of her divorce and a new boyfriend is not a pretty sight. It, in some cases, unfairly handcuffs the mother because she can’t talk sense to her boy because she did something wrong too. There is a plank in her eye, how can she pick out the speck in her son’s eye? THIS IS A FALSE CHARGE OF HYPOCRISY.

We as Christians are not called to not see the right from wrong, on the exact opposite we are told to judge, and if someone has learned of some contextual Greek they would understand that when Christ used the word judged in the above phrase he was talking about people who held other people morally or spiritually inferior. And he was right because those arrogant Pharisees were critical of others because of personal pride and not the acts in question, for they themselves did the same things that they blamed others for.

Remember Christ himself was very critical of the Pharisees and the masters of the Law, not on personal grounds but their arrogance and spiritual blindness. So do not judge because you feel you’re on the high ground always, do not judge because you feel like giving out sentences, do not judge because you have something personal against the person, for that is the sole reason that you will be judged the same way.

But judge with humblesness and compassion and logic and reason, call the act in question, not the person doing it.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Matthew 5:7

And if someone accuses you falsely of hypocrisy, pay no heed. Ask yourself why are you critical of something, make sure the answer is not personal reasons; be consistent and be loving and more so do not quit on the message of truth – do not let a false charge of hypocrisy let you down.

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4 thoughts on “How not to be a hypocrite & the charge against false hypocrisy

  1. Thanks Fletcher. I have found it really hard to get across when people don’t see their error and starts pointing out yours. And two wrons don’t make a right.

    Appreciate you stopping by 🙂

  2. I have often asked if one has to be a Christian to be a hypocrite, since we are the most often charged group in this offense. I wrote about the same thing here: http://ajfits.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/reaching-hypocritical-mass-2/

    I have even been told in a Bible Study that we should not point out the sins even of our brothers and sisters in Christ, because of the planks in our own eyes. I understand that we must correct only in love, and the nonbeliever cannot be held to a standard they do not believe (e.g. the commandments of Christ). However, the charge is often used as a defense, in order to stop the conversation and free the guilty person of his guilt and responsibility.

  3. I agree, Aj, most of the time people use this reasoning to justify their own wrongful behaviour. Love is the key to help someone, most of the times the way we point others’ faults is also the wrong way, its too judgmental at times.

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