Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Romans 12:3
The Bible in several places compares people to flowers, one reason being that they flourish for a while, then quickly fade away. Other parallels can be drawn. A writer in an outdoors magazine recently stated that "the dandelion is a weed that impersonates a flower." It may be asked: Do people of one kind at times pretend to be people of another sort?
We may know of people who don't want to be what they really are, going to considerable effort to disguise their identity. The problem of human dissemblance prevails also in Christendom. Some who are unbelievers at heart pretend to be Christians. They are called hypocrites. In ancient Greece, "hypokrites" were actors who impersonated other people.
Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, "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 men" (Matthew 6:5). Saint Matthew devotes the 23rd chapter of his Gospel to Jesus' condemnation of the Pharisees, many of whom were hypocrites. The Lord said, "They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers" (Mark 12:40).
If hypocrites are a spiritual nuisance, why are they not summarily excommunicated from the church? This cannot be done, for we cannot look into anyone's heart to see whether the true faith in Christ is present. Jesus made this clear in His parable of the tares among the wheat stalks. We are not to eradicate the hypocrites, for we would make too many mistakes. Jesus said we should let both grow together until the harvest. On Judgment Day our Lord will Himself make the separation.
Jesus' laissez faire does not imply that His church should condone sham Christianity. The church is to warn its members about the sin of hypocrisy. Holy Scripture, in the words of Saint Paul, "is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). It teaches us to be what we are. In the same chapter the apostle states also that God's Word, the Gospel, is "able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:15). When we believe sincerely in Jesus as our Savior, we will try to keep His Word in good and honest hearts.
PRAYER: O Holy Spirit keep me in the true faith and help me to confess it honestly before the world. Amen.
(Devotions from "With Jesus Every Day" copyright 1997, CPH. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be printed, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of Concordia Publishing House. Permission is granted for one-time emailing of this link to a friend. For information on other devotional material, please contact CPH at 800-325-3040 or visit CPH at www.cph.org.)