Hypocrisy is a disease of which most men seek the remedy at some time in their lives. It is very often so vague in us that only others can see it. Just like the woman who stands before the mirror as an anorexic, so the hypocrite can see nothing but a distorted image when everyone around him can see it plainly. The pretender can sometimes be so immersed in his act that he will actually believe himself a knight in shining armor. Yet he will be Don Quixote fighting windmills of unbelief.
There is not a man living or dead who at one time did not deal with a hypocritical heart. Each of us faces ourselves at times when we would rather not see what is really there. Then we are faced with a radical decision. We must decide whether we will deal with self or let self rule. Our inner selves at times may become much like a despotic king, tyrannically forcing it’s subjects (the mind, will, desire, etc.) to turn in rebellion against God. When we notice this king gaining a strategic position we must unseat him. Self must be brought into subjection.
But subjection to what? Self cannot be brought into subjection to self. We cannot provide security against ourselves. No one lets the prisoners hold the keys. We deceive ourselves when we believe that we can govern ourselves. It is true that we must maintain a careful eye on our life and at times even beat our bodies into subjection, but in subjection to what? What is the tool with which we beat ourselves? To the Christian, this is as obvious a thing as can ever be.
God, in His grace, has given us two tools that we may use to beat and guard ourselves. The church and the word under the operation of the Spirit are all that we need. We must bring ourselves under subjection to the body and word of Christ. When we are judged by the body and word of Christ there is an objective and absolute standard of truth by which we may measure ourselves. Without this standard we have no hope of testing ourselves accurately. Nor is there any hope that we will discern with clarity sinful patterns within ourselves. Furthermore, there is no promise or reasonable expectation that we will deal effectively or lastingly with the error within. The church and the word are the tools in the surgeon’s hands when it comes to cutting out the disease of hypocrisy.
In the beginning of his extremely helpful book, The Godly Man’s Picture, Thomas Watson rebukes those who seek godliness out of pretense. He asserts that the “hypocrite is born under a sad planet; he is abhorred by all. Wicked men hate him because he makes a show, and God hates him because he only makes a show. The wicked hate him because he has so much as a mask of godliness, and God hates him because he has no more. ‘Thou has almost persuaded me to be a Christian’ (Acts 26:28). The wicked hate the hypocrite because his is almost a Christian, and God hates him because he is only almost one.”