29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.”
No one wants to be a hypocrite. Commonly the term is understood someone who doesn’t practice what they preach. The problem of course is that we all admit as believers that the standard of God is good and holy; and furthermore, that we are unable to keep it perfectly. According to the strictest definition then, we are all hypocrites at some point. I think Jesus pointed to a deeper hypocrisy however. The Pharisees weren’t merely guilty of not “practicing what they preached.” The problem went much deeper. They were trying to hold others to God’s standard while they made excuses for failing to keep it themselves. It wasn’t their failure to “practice what they preached” alone that made them hypocrites. It was their attempts to justify their actions as something other than hypocrisy. There are three ways to avoid being a hypocrite:
- Have no standards at all – no hypocrisy there
- Have standards and perfectly keep them – not actually possible
- Admit that the standard is true but that you have failed to meet it nonetheless – the Bible refers to this as repentance.
I advocate number three. Number one will lead to destruction, number two isn’t going to happen for you and me (although Jesus nailed it). When you fail to meet God’s righteous standard, don’t try to change it or justify yourself; you will fail either way. Admit to your failure and throw yourself on God’s mercy, not just one time – every time.