Jesus, minister to the poor and the ill, welcomer of children and outcasts, had no time for hypocrisy.

Matthew especially points it out. Matthew would be a good book to do a hypocrisy study on. Matthew 6, 7, 23 as well as Mark 7, Matthew 6 & 23 are just some of the places where Jesus uses the word hypocrite in a very modern way. According to the Webster dictionary this usage of the word wasn’t common til the medieval times.

This animation includes a definition of the word hypocrite

Jesus is full of grace, but he hates it when people wear a mask to pretend to be following God, but are only doing it for power

How do we, as pastors, deal with hypocrisy?

In some ways it must be easier to be Jesus, he could just call things as he saw them and he had the luxury of a. knowing he was right b. also knowing that it wouldn’t ultimately change his fate.

Because, let’s face it, once you call someone a hypocrite the conversation is over. Now it’s a fight, and it becomes about winning. I stand firmly in the belief that you can’t convince someone of their own hypocrisy.

What is Truth?

This is part of why we explore the stories of Christ, and if we are doing it well, then we are doing it in relationship with one another.

One week I preached a lot about how there is no way to change people’s minds by arguing with them. All we can do is sit with them and love them (provided there are safe boundaries).

Ironically one of the people who I disagree with about policies and politics came to talk to me afterwards about how we need to preach grace more, and that it is all about loving people in the end.

We both affirmed to one another that loving people is more important than agreeing with them.

In an age where one’s humanity is often attacked; I need to be clear that you often can’t safely love someone who is arguing over your right to exist. As many black, people of color, lbgtqia and even women in ministry can attest, often the best thing to do in this situations is to stop talking to the said person.

Say no to the person who wants you to buy you coffee if you’ll only explain your right to exist with them.

However, I think it is equally important to try to figure out how we as Christians treat hypocrisy. Matthew 18 has the method, in a step by step manual, how to confront people who are doing wrong. The advice to get partners in the work is especially helpful to avoid a toxic situation.

An important step is to call people on the small hypocrisies that we often let go. If someone says something that you recognize as subtley racist or bigoted and you are in a similar gender-class-privilege sphere then call them on it.

Tell them that “It hurts me when you say that” or “I know you are a loving person and I’m not sure you meant what you said there.” Gentle correction can do wonders. Many anti-racism trainings focus on how to do the ongoing work of seeing and stopping racism (and bigotry in general) at play in your own and other’s interactions

This was the methodology of many of our heroes Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Martin Luther King Jr, Jesus (for the most part). However this doesn’t mean they didn’t piss people off.

Often telling someone the truth, politely can cause severe reactions. I’ve had individuals who would stop asking for my opinion, or drop information like a bomb and then almost run out of the room, because they didn’t know how to handle polite and kind truth telling.

I continue to believe that most of the time, however that is the call for us.

And, if you willing and able to sacrifice your friendship or job or something of meaning to prove a point and you need to finally tell the cold hard truth–we pastors always like to remind each other that calling people snakes and hypocrites and flipping tables is always an option.

One seminary professor told us: make sure it’s worth it because often once you’ve lost that piece of your life, it’s gone and you can only sacrifice it once. Sometimes, however, the safest thing is to lose a relationship.

However, I think the more we decide as the greater church how to handle hypocrisy, the better our church and ministry will be.


Katy Stenta is a solo pastor at a tiny church that is bigger on the inside in Albany, NY since 2010 and blogs at www.katyandtheword.com She is also the co-founder of the fledgling TrailPraisers inclusive Worship. When she is not dreaming up projects and ideas, some of which creep into the church, she plays with her three boys-boys or goes and visits her husband at the library, while he works, to read.


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