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  • Writer's pictureKent Chevalier

The Hypocritical Judge

One of the giant complaints about Christianity and followers of Jesus is that the Church is full of hypocrites. People who do not practice what they preach or live contrary to what they say they believe. Unfortunately, there is a ton of evidence to back this up. From celebrity preachers having “huge” moral failures to every day parents displaying behavior that teaches their kids to do as I say, not as I do.

My personal journey to hypocrisy started as I grew up in a Christian home. My parents took me to church every Sunday morning…every Sunday night…and every Wednesday night. Vacation Bible Schools, sometimes at multiple churches. My parents sent me to church camps every summer. I was that church kid, and I have so many wonderful memories from being in Christian community, but this is also where I witnessed and learned a lot of hypocritical behavior.

The things I overheard and witnessed as a little boy from the men in my church would absolutely shock you. Maybe they didn’t know I was there. Maybe they didn’t think I was listening. Maybe they didn’t think I could understand the “adult” things they were talking about in the church foyer, but here’s what I heard…

Gossip. Slander. Racist remarks. Coarse joking. Obscenities. Sexual innuendos. Just to name a few.

Now here’s the thing…if I did any of those things at home, I wouldn’t have been able to sit down for a week, if you know what I mean. But, I watched as grown Christian men did this on a regular basis in the church building before and after a worship service. So, you can imagine what I saw and overheard outside the walls of the church building at people’s homes, hunting cabins, and church camps where there was a lot of free time.

I don’t mean to bash these men of my childhood church. I’m just telling you what I witnessed because I think this is what most people are referring to when they say they want nothing to do with Christianity because the Church is full of hypocrisy.

From that standpoint, I agree with them and their complaint. I don’t want anything to do with a “do as I say, not as I do” person, but the problem is that I’m unfortunately that guy! I’m the men of my childhood church. I’m a hypocrite! So are you!

If we’re all honest with ourselves, we’re all hypocrites in some way, shape, or form. Christian or not. And in this befuddling comparison game, we all try to justify how our secret hypocrisy is less detremental than how the other guy is displaying his.

Telephone Pole Hypocrisy

In our culture today, we are so good at pointing out other people’s faults. Social media has made it extremely easy and acceptable to slander people. To gossip about people we don’t even know. It’s become so engrained in our pop culture that people no longer realize anymore how hypocritical they are with their keyboards.

Jesus didn’t have social media, but he did confront hypocrisy through the media of his day. He did it in his most famous Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew 7.

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye." - Matthew 7:1-5 (NLT)

Jesus’ point is that we all have telephone poles in our eyes! We’re all hypocrites! We’re all sinners! We all live with giant hypocritical sin issues in our lives while walking around judging other people’s sin issues like we don’t have any. And I love how Jesus confronts this complaint of Christian hypocrisy and levels the playing field here.

Here’s the point. Hypocrisy is not just a Christian issue. Hypocrisy is a human issue. It’s a sin issue. It’s a natural tendency within all of us, Christian or not.

In this passage, Jesus taught that the buzz saw of hypocritical judgment cuts both ways. When you and I choose to judge others, we automatically condemn ourselves as well. If we are not willing to evaluate ourselves honestly, we will undermine any right to scrutinize the lives of others. Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1-2)

Basically, Jesus said that we have to be extremely careful if we’re going to start calling out the sin and hypocrisy of others if we’re not willing to have them call out our sin and hypocrisy in return. The standard you judge by is the standard you’ll be judged by in return.

No Judgement?

Does this mean that we’re not supposed to judge anyone?

Maybe a better question is this. Do you want the reputation of a judgmental hypocrite? Holiding people to a higher standard than you even hold yourself.

From this passage, I don’t think Jesus has an issue with people judging each other. I think Jesus has a major problem with hypocritcal judgment. I think Jesus takes a massive issue with people who call out the sin in others while refusing to see and confess the sin in their own lives.

A perfect example of this is recorded in John 8.

   As Jesus was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
   “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
   They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
   When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
   “No, Lord,” she said.
   And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” - John 8:3-11 (NLT)

The hypocritcal pharisees dragged this woman before Jesus expecting him to judge her alone, but Jesus ended up judging them all. After all, she wasn’t having sex by herself. Where’s the guy? Why isn’t he there with her?

See what Jesus did? He flipped their standard back on to them.

Through this real life example and going back to what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, was Jesus saying that we cannot judge? No. That’s not what he said.

Jesus taught against a specific kind of judging. The type of judging he spoke against was a blind, ignorant, hypocritical, self-righteous judging that overlooks your own faults, failures and sins and only sees faults, failures and sins in other people. The issue Jesus is going after was the pride that was in a person’s heart which made it easy for them to see other people’s faults, but be blinded to their own. And notice what Jesus called them. Hypocrites.

What’s a hypocrite? A hypocrite is someone who pretends to be something that they are not. In the 1st century, plays would often have only one or two actors who would use different masks to play different roles. They would switch their mask to play a different character.

Jesus, being the master teacher, used this as a familiar cultural illustration to address people who wear a mask of religious piety over their heart that was judgmental, critical, and self-righteous toward others.

Jesus wasn’t telling people not to judge. He was telling people not to be a hypocrite when they judged. Not to be on some religious stage actor pretending to be someone they’re not.

How do I know this?

Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had been speaking to a crowd about what true righteousness really looks like. He’d been talking about issues of the heart and what makes a person right before God. This is the importance of knowing the context of Jesus’ teaching. As my seminary professor said, context is king.

Context Is King

You and I both know people who rip this verse out of context and use it to mean that nobody should never judge other people. People use this misinterpreted verse to justify their sinful behavior. Judge not, lest you be judged!

Unfortunately I remember a very confrontational conversation I had with an engaged woman who had asked me to perform her wedding ceremony. The moral and ethical dilemma I faced was that I was aware of a major unresolved and unconfessed sin issue on the part of the woman that her fiancé did not know. I believed that if she did not tell him, and they moved forward with the wedding, that eventually this sin issue would lead to destroying their marriage, so I refused to do the wedding.

I tried to gently confront the woman with what I knew, and she ended up screaming at me, “How dare you judge me? The Bible says you cannot judge, and you call yourself a pastor, a man of God!”

Yes, I judged. I judged this woman’s sinful behavior, but according to what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, was I wrong for doing so?

A couple days later I was then confronted by her fiancé. He asked why I wouldn’t do the wedding. It was not my place to tell him what I knew, but I told him that I had some major red flags about their relationship and suggested they delay their timeline. He left my office very angry thinking that I was an arrogant jerk for not doing their wedding.

My judgment of her unconfessed sin led me to not perform their ceremony and severed my relationship with both of them, and they left the church.

What would you have done? Would you have handled this differently?

To be honest, I questioned for a long time if I did the right thing. Did I make the right judgment call? But that question was answered a couple years after their wedding when the same man came up to me in tears. He told me they were now divorced and that he should have listened to my warning and the warning of others who cared about him.

My heart broke for him.

Wrong Ways to Judge

According to this passage, Jesus did not say that we should never judge. He was taking issue against a particular kind of wrong judgment. People having a critical, condemning, self-righteous attitude toward other people. That pompous posture of looking down from the stage onto others because you’ve got it all together and they don’t.

I think that when people say that they don’t want anything to do with the judgmental hypocrisy of Christianity, Jesus would agree with them. Jesus made it clear that there are wrong ways to judge people.

Superficial judgment is wrong. Passing judgment on someone based solely on outward appearances is wrong (John 7:24). A Pharisee named Simon passed judgment on a woman based on her appearance and reputation, but he never considered that the woman had been forgiven. Jesus rebuked him for unrighteous judgment (Luke 7:36-50).

Self-righteous judgment is wrong. As followers of Jesus, we are called to humility, and we know that “God opposes the proud” (James 4:6). The Pharisee in Jesus’ parable of the praying Pharisee and the tax collector, was confident in his own righteousness, and from that proud position he prayerfully judged everyone else, but we learn that God judged his heart and refused to justify the Pharisee’s sin (Luke 18:9-14).

Harsh and unforgiving judgment is wrong. We are “always to be gentle toward everyone” according to Titus 3:2. Jesus taught it is the merciful who will be shown mercy in Matthew 5:7, and, as Jesus warned, “In the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2).

According to Jesus, there are wrong ways to judge.

A Right Way to Judge

In the same way that Jesus taught there was a wrong way to judge, he also gave us a right way to judge in this passage. He taught us to cut the telephone pole out of our eye first and then help remove the sawdust in our friends’ eyes.

This means that as followers of Jesus, we are called to help other Christians who become entangled in sin. The Apostle Paul said, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path” (Galatains 6:1). But before we can help a fellow brother or sister onto the right path—before we can remove the splinter from their eye—Jesus is saying and modeling we must first deal honestly with our own telephone pole of sin.

Going back to my childhood church foyer, some guy should have been man enough to gently call out the hypocritical behavior that I witnessed as a kid. Not because any guy was better than anybody else, but because that type of sinful behavior is not standard for a follower of Christ. As Christian brothers, we should hold each other accountable to the standard that Jesus sets for us.

Accountable to the standard.

Maybe that’s a better way to say it. That’s what judges are supposed to do, right? They hold us accountable to the standard set by the law. Whenever that standard is not met or fallen short of, a judge holds us accountable.

If you choose to break the speed limit, a police officer has the right and authority to write you a ticket which forces you to pay a fine. The standard, held up by the officer, holds you accountable for your actions.

So, when you and I see someone falling short of the standard that Jesus has set for his followers, we should gently and humbly call it out and call them up into who they should be in Christ.

We shouldn’t let gossip run rampant out of a Christian’s mouth. We should stop it.

We shouldn’t let someone make racist remarks in our presence. We should end it.

We shouldn’t let someone slander another person. We should call it out.

Call the sin out and call them up to the Jesus standard.

That is not Christian hypocrisy. That is not pious judgmentalism. That is properly judging behavior according to Jesus’ standard and holding a Christian brother accountable to that standard that I also hold myself accountable to as well.

The BIG Issue

However, where I think we get into big trouble, as people of Jesus’ Church, is when we try to hold people who are not part of the Church accountable to something they never agreed to be held accountable to in the first place.

That is not our job. That is God’s job. Dear Christian, please hear me. Our job is to love God and love that person. Our job is not to hold accountable those who are not a part of the family of God.

That would be like me trying to hold someone else’s kid accountable to my family rules at their dinner table.

If a person has never submitted their life to Jesus and made him the leader of their life, Christians (you and I) don’t have the family right to hold them accountable to the standard of following Jesus.

Does that mean I don’t model Jesus’ way in front of them? No. Does that mean I don’t lovingly share the truth of God’s word in that situation? No. Does that mean I cross the line of sin with them to win them over? No. I gently and lovingly say, I cannot participate in that because that’s not what God wants for me and then flee from that temptation.

That’s not judgmental hypocrisy. That’s proper judgment. That’s loving judgment for you and them. That’s standing up for how Jesus said we should live, but we don’t have to be jerks about it with those who do not follow Jesus.

Nobody likes a judgmental jerk.

I don’t believe most people have an issue with Christians who follow Jesus’ standard. However, I do believe that people have an issue with the hypocritical and judgmental jerks who yell at them in their homes, at school, and on their social media platforms. I think most people realize that we’re all hypocrites in some way, shape, or form, but the issue is when you pretend you’re not one of them while preaching that they are.

If we learn anything from these passages today, it’s this: The real Jesus called out hypocritical judgmentalism, and He called us up into a better way of living with and loving our friends.

Before You Go…

If you’ve been with me on this journey of ‘False Jesus’, you know that I often say that you shouldn’t take my word for it, but you should always take God’s word for it. You should always test what I say according to the Bible. Why?

Because I struggle with being a hypocrite, just like you. But Jesus was not. He perfectly lived what he preached 100% of the time. He’s the standard, and while I want to live my life to honor him, I still fall short. Just ask my wife and daugthers.

No Christian is going to get this right 100% of the time. No pastor. No youth group leader. No parent. No one.

Maybe you’ve been hurt by someone in the Church. Maybe a pastor used you and your family. Maybe a Christian friend gossiped about you and the rumors wounded you. Maybe someone’s hypocrisy has led you to deconstruct your Christian faith and leave the Church.

I get it. And I’m sorry.

This is why my goal with ‘False Jesus’ is to keep bringing us back to the life and words of the Jesus. Unfortunately, because we’re all hypocrites, our behavior has marred an accurate image of who Jesus is and what he’s all about.

My encouragement to all of us who have been hurt by hypocrisy and pious judmentalism, is to keep our eyes on the real Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible.


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