God hates. Those words may sound foreign to us. They may sound improper. But the God who loves what is good must hate what is evil. The God who loves what honors his name must despise what dishonors it. The God who loves what blesses his people must hate what harms them. It could not be any other way and we would not want it any other way. Over the course of a few articles, we have been looking at what God hates by examining passages that use words like “hate,” “abomination,” and “detestable.” We have seen that God hates idolatry, sexual immorality, and injustice. Now we turn to hypocrisy.
God Hates Hypocrisy
God hates hypocrisy. Specifically, he hates it when people go through the motions of worship and pretend to bring him their best while they actually bring their cast-offs. “You shall not sacrifice to the LORD your God an ox or a sheep in which is a blemish, any defect whatever, for that is an abomination to the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 17:1). This theme is repeated in Isaiah 61:8: “For I the LORD love justice; I hate robbery and wrong [or robbery with a burnt offering]; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.”
God also hates worship that follows the letter of the law while violating its spirit. “Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations—I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.” (Isaiah 1:13-14). God wants nothing to do with such worship. He will not tolerate worship that follows the prescribed rituals while ignoring the demands of justice. “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (16-17).
Why God Hates Hypocrisy
God hates hypocrisy because hypocrisy misuses religion, taking advantage of its laws and decrees for self-advancement. Hypocrites want religion—even the Christian faith—only for the advantages they gain from it. They fail to truly turn their hearts to God and do good to God’s people.
It is important to understand what hypocrisy is not. Hypocrisy is not the disparity between what we are and what we long to be. It is not the gap between what we want to do and what we actually do. Rather, in the words of Kevin DeYoung, hypocrisy is “the gap between public persona and private character. Hypocrisy is the failure to practice what you preach. Appearing outwardly righteous to others, while actually being full of uncleanness and self-indulgence—that’s the definition of hypocrisy.”
This is exactly what so arouses God’s anger in these Old Testament passages. The people want the blessings of God and the approval of men, but without actually turning their hearts to God and submitting their lives to his rule. The people want to follow the law’s prescriptions for worship, but only out of custom and superstition, and only to look good in the eyes of others. They do not want to change their lives, their habits, their affections to conform to God’s will. DeYoung says, “The hypocrite is the Christian who uses the veneer of public virtue to cover the rot of private vice. He’s the man living a double life, the woman fooling her friends because she has church clothes, the student who proudly answers the questions in Sunday school and just as proudly romps through immorality the rest of the week.”
At heart, hypocrisy is theatrical religion, religion as a means of personal enrichment or enhanced reputation. It is an abomination to the God who sees and knows the heart. It is an abomination to the God who is blasphemed when people misuse his name, his law, his decrees.
God’s Judgment on the Hypocrite
The New Testament makes clear that God’s most severe judgments are reserved for hypocrites. Jesus never speaks in harsher terms than he does in Matthew 23 where he pours out woe after woe against the religious authorities. Six times he repeats, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” Another time he varies his words slightly by saying, “Woe to you, blind guides.” He castigates these leaders for their insincerity, for making their religion a selfish pursuit, for blasphemously misusing the law of God. He offers the sternest warning: “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell” (33)?
In Romans 2 we find Paul warning of the consequences of hypocrisy. “Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? … But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (3, 5). God’s judgment falls on those who practice the ugly deeds of unrighteousness Paul has just listed. His judgment falls severely on those who condemn such sin publicly while indulging in it privately.
Hope for the Hypocrite
Though hypocrisy is an abomination to God that incites his sternest woes, still there is hope for the hypocrite. The hypocrite’s hope is Jesus Christ. Paul warns of the dire consequences of hypocrisy, but also offers this word of hope: “Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance” (Romans 2:4)? God holds off his immediate judgment against the hypocrite so he has time and opportunity to repent of that sin. And if he does, God will receive and cleanse him. Years earlier Jesus had rhetorically asked the Scribes and Pharisees, “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell.” He offered the answer through his crucifixion. They, even they, could be forgiven if they simply repented of their sin and turned to God, this time not only outwardly but first inwardly.
Key Verses on Hypocrisy
- God hates blemished sacrifices (Deuteronomy 17:1)
- God hates vain sacrifices (Isaiah 1:13)
- God hates the feasts of the new moon celebrated by the Hebrews during the days of Isaiah (Isaiah 1:14)
- God hates robbery for burnt offering (Isaiah 61:8)
- God’s severest judgment falls to hypocrites (Matthew 23)
- God’s wrath falls on those who condemn sin publicly but practice it privately (Romans 2:3-5)