Perhaps the most common criticism of Christians, by those vaguely familiar with biblical ideals, involves accusations of hypocrisy. But did you know that God says the same thing about many of those who claim to follow him?
Our family devotional time through the book Claiming Christ has brought us into consideration of several Scriptural passages in Ezekiel. They are sober admonitions to be sure; and ones that ought to cause us to pause and reflect on our own motives for going to church.
Christians expect to brush off the dissent of Godless naysayers, but as the writer of Proverbs teaches, it is a wise person who considers criticism carefully, in order to discover even the slightest possibility of insightful correction.
So I invite you on a virtual tour of your own heart, to consider why you attend church, why you perhaps call yourself a Christian. Here is what the Lord has to say about many who assemble before him like done in our churches Today:
“My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to hear your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.” (Eze 33:31-32)
God’s own people (some of them) make a show of being Christ-followers. They have learned church-speak, the language of Christian charity, but their motives are anything but pure. Indeed, their real reason for going to the mega-church of their choice is to be entertained. They certainly have no intention of actually obeying the commands of Christ.
In short, they are hypocrites.
From the tents of ancient Israel to the pews of our lavish churches, nothing much has changed. And so it is worth our own contemplation. Why do we do what we do? Why do we profess to be Christian? Is there a real transformation into the likeness of Jesus taking place in us or are we just going through the motions, just putting on a good show?
I’ll confess, there are times that my own motives are likely suspect. I don’t always go to church with my mind and spirit fully devoted to worship God. I actually find my mind wanders some times to things of my own interests. I don’t always get it right, and I admit that such periodic deviations, if left unrestrained, have the potential to develop into a far more serious condition.
But I don’t think God was speaking to Ezekiel about human frailty or occasional slip-ups. Our incredibly patient Father doesn’t nit-pic. He is confronting habitual patterns, motives that reverberate consistently over time, hearts that have demonstrated persistent rebellion while at the same time making it appear like they are good-with-God.
That is a charade; one that justifiably fuels the criticisms so often leveled at Christians.
What are we to do? I would suggest that step one is to humbly consider our own motives as they might impact our choices of where to attend church, why we prefer listening to one minister or another, or even about what we think others would say if we made our preferences obvious.
According to the text, the next step might be to strive to do what God says the fakers weren’t doing:
Putting into practice the words of God.
Don’t worry if you make mistakes along the way. Naysayers may cry fowl, but your heavenly Father will be there to defend you. He knows we are easily distracted and he loves to help his children grow.
The issue is really about devotion. Are we devoted to our own stimulation, entertainment, or perceived reputation, surrounding ourselves with charismatic ear-scratchers? Or, are we devoted to honoring our Lord and Savior, subordinating our tendencies to wander in search of pleasures to the wonder of applying his words in every realm of our existence.
Are your actions in line with your claimed devotion to Christ?