The Delusion of Lip Service

The Delusion of Lip Service

Matthew 23:1-15

I can say Christians shouldn’t gossip, and still engage in (or at least listen to) gossip. That’s paying lip service to something — saying one thing but doing the opposite. That’s giving truth my mental and oral assent…and no more.

I can know and practice the doctrine of nonconformity, and still wish I could live otherwise (at least in some regards). That’s paying external service to something — doing the right thing without a heart genuinely committed to it. That’s an assent to truth in intellect and practice,…and no more (though it usually is accompanied by lip service).

Lip service goes no further than saying the right things. External service improves on lip service by also doing the right things. We must say and do the right things. But even those aren’t enough.

God wants my heart service, my whole-being service, my whole-life service. He wants me to obey Him and to do His will from the heart (Romans 6:17; Ephesians 6:6).

Let’s grow out of lip service and external service!

He came and sought fruit thereon (Luke 13:6)

What is the cure for hypocrisy?

In addition to those highlighted in today’s passage, hypocrisy has many other manifestations. Whatever its manifestation, the cure for the basic heart problem remains the same — God-consciousness. Notice how many verses in today’s reading bring God into the picture. Since the hypocrite performs solely for a human audience, he needs his heart turned and tuned toward God. When he learns to care about and be aware of God, he will find deliverance from his hypocrisy. (Giving and Praying)

Pretense. Hypocrisy. What an area for dual standards! Few like it in others; many practice it. We pretend in our speech, in our actions, in our appearance, and in our worship. And God hates every bit of it. Why?

First off, God hates pretense and hypocrisy because they leave Him utterly out of the picture. The hypocrite considers only the human element. If this were not so, he wouldn’t pretend because he knows God cannot be fooled. However, the pretender is concerned only with being seen and glorified by men (Matthew 6:2,5).

Second, God abhors these sins because they are contrary to His own character. They violate truth and constancy. You can count on God to always be truthful and to always be the same; not so with the pretender.

The hypocrite seems not to care about coming judgment, perhaps because it seems so remote and unreal. Perhaps he figures he can enjoy the praise of men now, and later get things squared away with God. Herein he is deceived and deluded. An immediate hazard the hypocrite exposes himself to is that of being such an effective hypocrite that nobody realizes he needs redeeming.

Does all this mean that if I cannot do something whole-heartedly, I should not do it at all lest I be a hypocrite? Perhaps in a very limited sense this is similar to eating zucchini.

I ate it as a child because it was good for me (not to be punished). I continued eating it into adulthood because it was good for me (to be exemplary). Did I claim to like zucchini? No! Did I take seconds? Not if I could help it! So was I a pretender for eating something as “foul” as zucchini? Not at all, because it was clear I ate it out of a zest for duty and not a zest for flavor. But guess what happened?!

I learned to like zucchini. Ah, what a delightful olfactory treat! Such a delicious culinary experience! Obedience led to delight. I believe the same can happen with those commands of the Lord which I fear to disobey…but which I do not (yet) enjoy doing.

Additional Reading

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