Sunday February 27, 2022, The Eighth Sunday Ordinary Time (Cycle C)
The tie in between today’s readings: Words and Deeds
It is universally accepted that actions speak louder than words and it is refreshing when we find people of character that do what they say. All too often, in the general sea of humanity, however, it’s not the case. It is worse in the church where we announce to the world our higher moral standard. While we do accomplish good things, when we come up short society is all too eager to hit us with the hypocrite hammer. Fair or unfair, I know that a hypocrite lurks deep down inside each of us and, after studying the Bible; one thing for certain is that God hates a hypocrite.
The problem with this play acting is that it is unconscious. Nobody wakes up and says, “Maybe I’ll commit hypocrisy today.” The hypocrite plays a self-deluded game of “let’s pretend” and defends himself with denials, deflections, and attacks. Take hypocrisy’s poster boys, the Pharisees, for example. They were respected, law abiding, and in their world the righteous descendants of Abraham. They were the good guys! Yet, when Jesus, the Truth of God personified, calls them out as hypocrites, they crucify Him. How could people so learned in the scriptures be so wrong? They were pride blind. Boil down our reading in Luke 6:39-45 and you’ll see pride as the motivator for the leader, who will not wait for his time to mature and the moral speck finder, who doesn’t even know himself. In that vein of thought, I think the scariest parable in the Bible is the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:9-14). It’s not that the guy with the Theological degree spouting his goodness was so clueless. What frightens me is that we often see ourselves as the repented Tax Collector and miss the thrust of the story. The hypocrite in us will not permit the conclusion that we, in fact, may very well be the Pharisee!
Jesus once said to the crowd that you who are evil can give good things (Matthew 7:11). We have to understand that we are part of that evil crowd. Bad people are not just Hitler, Al Capone, or the annoying neighbor down the street. Guilty of one sin is guilty of all and all have sinned! That’s why we need a Savior. When we come to Jesus in faith for the forgiveness and receive our new nature it is only the beginning. The church, in essence, is the family of God and as a family each individual member is at a different stage of development. We and The Holy Spirit have our work cut out to make us more like Jesus in this life. It’s a growth process with advances and setbacks. We have baggage. Upbringing, habits, and our lifestyle have to be scrutinized and conformed to the Bible. This takes humility and it’s hard. Pretending to each other that we are farther along the piety road than we really are is just dumb. That is our hypocrisy. We should stop. Let’s admit that we are struggling to become the people God wants us to be. The Apostle Paul owned his failures. Peter had to be taken to task over backsliding into legalism. The early church contended with social favoritism, drunkenness, and false-face love. What makes us think that we are any better than they? It may be time to trade in our pride, embrace the truth about our sin failing selves, and in the process, maybe gain a little respect from those around that can see right through us.
So, what now? Slap on a bumper sticker that says, “Christians are not perfect, just forgiven.” and call it a day? Hardly. We need to run the race set before us. We treat God’s Word as a mirror to our souls and honestly deal with the smudges on our faces. Fill our thoughts with heavenly perspective, so that it comes out even in our speech (Sirach 27:4-7, Psalm 92:2-3; 13-16). When we fall, and we will…Get up! Forget what’s behind and press toward the high calling of Jesus and be confident in Him who began the good work of salvation in us will complete it. God gives us the victory through Jesus. Therefore, be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil in the Lord is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:57-58). The world will know you by your works and glorify God, not you. That’s the way it should be.