There are a lot of hypocrites out there, aren’t there? Some of the cleanest-looking, most proper-sounding Christians have been caught in the very sins they’ve railed against the most vehemently. What makes them hypocrites is not that they proclaim sin to be sin, but that they hold so tightly to their own sin while doing so, proving that they don’t in their hearts believe what they are preaching.
Hypocrites are worse than honest unbelievers, because they attempt to profit from the truth without ever letting it touch their own hearts. The most recent of these public humiliations is neither the first, nor the last, nor even the worst. The lowest blow of these revelations (again, there are many examples besides Josh Duggar, who I’m sure is foremost in our minds, because he’s foremost in the news) is to the reputations of those who sacrifice their social status and financial comfort for the sake of Christ, as it casts doubt on their sincerity, too, and leads many unbelievers further astray. That there are people who claim Christ not because they love him, or even believe in him, but because they can get an easy career or social boost out of it is indisputable. That everyone who claims Christ is equally hypocritical and opportunistic is unearned guilt by association, and it causes further persecution of those who worship Christ in spirit and truth.
Now, I can’t tell you how not to raise a hypocrite, because hypocrisy is found in the heart, and you can’t change your children’s hearts. Only God can do that. Nor can I tell you how to raise a for-sure Pharisee, for the same reason. But I do detect some patterns that seem to have led many professing Christians into the rankest hypocrisy.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” Matthew 23:15
If a new convert is just twice the son of Hell, what can you make of your very own, hand-raised child, if you do it just right? Here are some things that I see among those who are producing converts who are perhaps not just twice, but seven times the sons of Hell that they are:
Give your kids a character chart instead of a living Christ. No matter what the behavioral problem presented to you by your children, instead of finding the answer to it in repentance, and in the Gospel of Christ’s blood shed for our sins, find the solution in behavior modification. I don’t like to get personal about these things, so I won’t say that one should never, ever follow a character curriculum, but…well, yes I will. One should never, ever follow a character curriculum. Not only is it unnecessary, it is a hindrance.
That might be the bravest thing I say all week, because I have a lot of friends with character charts proudly displayed on their walls. I don’t think worse of them for it, on a personal level. I believe in their confession of faith, utterly. But I think they’ve got ahold of a very bad, terrible, horrible, no good way of training children, focusing on works and appearances, rather than repentance. If you want your children following Christ, stickers and rewards are nothing more than behavior modification, a Skinnerian stumbling block on the way to repentance.
Teach your kids to follow a pattern, instead of Christ. But be clever about it. Say it’s Christ’s pattern. Gotta get married. Make that young. Gotta be debt free. Gotta have the Christian curriculum. Gotta have lots of kids. Gotta know the catechism by rote. Gotta be involved in politics. Gotta…blog? OK, yeah. Gotta blog. Gotta tithe. Church every Sunday, Sunday night, and Wednesday. Gotta be very much into public witnessing. Street preaching? Sure! Put the fish on your car, at the very least.
These are all things that often naturally and wholesomely result from cleaning the inside of the cup. But these things are all found on the outside of the cup, and can be easily faked. Pharisees never could see that, could they? They even believed their own lies:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.
Matthew 23:25, 26
Downplay the repentance, the “such a worm as I” stuff. It really doesn’t sell all that well in blogs, books, and on reality t.v. I know it doesn’t sell, because I have seen my blog stats, ok? Just live the formula and teach others to do the same. That way people can see how enviable it is to be a follower of Christ, and how much they, too, can benefit from this marvelous deal you have made with God. (Until you get caught in an uneviable position, of course. Then you can lay on about how you’re still a sinner, real thick.)
Assume that your children are, in their hearts, believing Christians just because they can spit out the right answers. One thing that scares me to death in this generation is parents who lead their children to pray a “sinner’s prayer”, rather than waiting for the moving of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. We may guide our children to the Living Water, but teaching that the sinner’s prayer is the route to Heaven amounts to trying to make him drink it. Just teach the truth, and let God do the heart-work. Be patient, parents, or you’ll have false converts on your hands. Even worse, they’ll have harder hearts to convert, because you taught them that they were OK by J.C..
(Disclosure: Not one of my children, the oldest of whom is eleven, has been baptized yet. Not. One. I’m not glad about that, but I have given them the Truth daily, and they have not yet done anything with it. God has this responsibility, not me. So maybe you won’t want to read my blog anymore, if good parenting is about getting early results instead of trusting Christ with your family. But I’ve seen early superficial results–in my own life, no less–end in late, egregious unbelief. I “gave my heart to Jesus” when I was six. But I wasn’t a repentant believer until I was 24. I really liked this Wretched video on the topic. Worth your time, even if you already agree.)
Make your Christianity professional, instead of confessional. That is, instead of living out the Way quietly, and with humility, make yourself the message.
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.
I can’t say for sure what happened in anyone’s heart, but this sure looks like what the Duggars did, and it’s what that Doug Philips disaster seems to have been about. Whether they intended to or not at the beginning, they made it about themselves, their way, their methods, their purposes. But it’s not just these very public failures I’m talking about. I’ve seen a lot of people do it in much less public ways, and I doubt that many of them started out with their own self-interest in mind.
There have always been those who glom on to the name of Christ for their own purposes right from the beginning, though. I’ve known personally many people who’ve followed some silver-tongued evangelist or social fad in their community in “asking Christ into their hearts”, and then instead of following the Lord as lowly disciples for a season, they immediately set themselves up as church leaders. Often, they have done it for the sake of their businesses’ reputations (He’d never cheat you, he’s a Christian!), and other times for the sake of making Christianity itself into a cash cow. It seldom took long for these “preachers” and “teachers” to collapse under the weight of their own vanity, though.
Sometimes even earnest believers fall into the trap of using their reputations to gain. It’s just God’s way of blessing them over and over again, they think. I’ve witnessed it. I’ll bet you have, too. It happens to true lovers of Christ, yes. But believers repent when they realize this has happened, and that they’ve set their hearts on things not eternal. Hypocrites keep raking in the praise (and cash) of man until there’s none left to be had. Repentance is for suckers, and they will keep on suckering the repentant, if they can get away with it.
Do these things, friends, and let your child see you doing them. Then sit back and watch with awe as he surpasses you in brazen misuse of Christ’s name.
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’
Because the inside of the cup is often hard to see, there are a lot of people who profess faith who we will one day see thrown into the lake of fire. My friends, you might see me in that position on the last day, for all you know. I have no doubt about my Savior, but you can’t be so sure of me, can you?
So don’t follow me. Don’t follow Duggars. ( Really, though, I still don’t know that the whole family is a fake. I just don’t know enough about it to know either way.) Don’t follow preachers, or friends, or teachers, or community leaders. Don’t follow a formula or a pattern. Just follow scripture.
I don’t expect a lot of happy comments today, seeing how many homeschoolers I likely just irritated with the character chart thing. Leave your comments, though. I can take ’em. 😉