Am I a Hypocrite?
(John 8: 1-11)
I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. I hate all the trash and divisiveness I see on a daily basis that serves absolutely no legitimate purpose. But I love it for all the great sermon material it gives me. It’s a treasure trove of examples of how we should be applying the gospel of Jesus Christ to our daily lives. Most of the time, it’s an illustration of how we aren’t living the gospel of Christ. To illustrate, earlier this week I saw a post that was shared by one of my Facebook friends that said: “All I get is a $900 refund, but Miss Food Stamps over there is getting back $10,000. Something ain’t right.” And then, another post pops up that says: “Income Tax: The fine you pay for being a productive member of society. Welfare: The reward you get for being an unproductive member of society.” Wow, I thought. The hypocrisy of these statements. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying our tax system is fair, or our welfare system is perfect, but comments such as these do nothing to promote any kind of intelligent discourse or problem solving. I wondered how many of the people who shared this post or liked it cheat on their taxes and how many of them go to church or claim to be a Christian. I thought to myself, What’s your point? Apparently, you are fortunate enough to have a job where you do get to pay taxes. How is it hurting you that someone else finds themselves in a position where they have to rely on public assistance? And what, if anything, are you doing to help people lift themselves out of poverty? What are you doing to help that neighbor? As difficult as it was, I fought the urge to comment, not wanting to ignite an internet firestorm. I guess I missed a teachable moment. I let Jesus down.
And, this is where we find ourselves in our scripture reading for this morning. Early one morning, Jesus was at the temple court, as was his practice, and all the people had gathered around to hear what he had to say. As he began teaching the Pharisees and the teachers of the law brought in a woman who had been caught in adultery. She was made to stand before Jesus and all those who had gathered to hear Jesus that morning. People she knew and people who knew her. How humiliating for her it must have been hearing the whispers and feeling the stares of her neighbors. The Pharisees made their case and said that the Law of Moses commands them to stone such women and asked Jesus what he had to say on the matter. Jesus smelled the trap and saw that they were attempting to set him up, so they could accuse him of heresy. Keeping his cool, we are told that Jesus looked down and wrote in the dirt with his finger. I think he was letting the accusation of the Pharisees sink in and was pausing for dramatic effect as the accusers persisted in their allegations and what they thought he ought to do. The answer was obvious. The law required that both guilty parties be stoned, yet there was someone missing. Jesus straightened up and said: If anyone of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her. In his response, he is indicating that he acknowledges what the law requires and is saying, “You’re right. Go ahead and stone her,” adding the stipulation that whoever casts that first stone must also be without sin. At that point, he bent back over and continued writing in the dirt, letting what he said sink in. You can just imagine the hush in the air as the Pharisees and teachers of the law looked back and forth at one another to see who was going to throw the first stone. The weight of humiliation had just been lifted from the woman and placed squarely on her accusers. Slowly, those who had heard began to quietly leave, including those who had gathered to hear Jesus teach that morning. When they were all gone, Jesus asked the woman who was there to accuse her. When she said there were no accusers, he said he also would not accuse her and to go and leave her life of sin.
By saying that only a sinless person should throw the first stone, Jesus is highlighting the importance of compassion and forgiveness. When others are caught in sin and we are quick to pass judgement, it is though we are acting as if we’ve never sinned ourselves. It’s God’s role to judge, not ours. Our role is to show forgiveness and compassion. God wants us to recognize our sinful nature and look for ways to help others rather than hurt them.
In our Sunday morning Learning Circle study of the 21 questions that John Wesley would ask his followers, chapter 16 is: Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I am? In other words, Am I a Hypocrite? The author points out that hypocrites aren’t being honest with themselves. They have their own sets of self-doubt they are dealing with and it makes them feel better when they point out the flaws of others in order to avoid drawing attention to themselves and their own flaws and failures.
In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he teaches about judging others. He says in the Book of Matthew, chapter 7, Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Jesus is telling us to be honest with ourselves, and when we are, we open the door to Christian growth. He’s telling us that when we are honest with ourselves, we begin to tap into the potential that God has in store for us. God isn’t interested in blame or shame. God forgives us because He wants us to be the fullest, most alive versions of ourselves. Afterall, how are you making anything better by putting someone else down? How does it help them or you?
Wesley believed that God could so greatly move in someone’s life that they could reach harmony with God in this life. We have to ask ourselves; How is belittling another of God’s children being in harmony with God? What would God have us do for this person or others like them? God wants you to see yourself as you truly are because it is the doorway to seeing who you can become. God is interested in growth, in love, and in honesty. Your growth, your love, and your honesty.
So, what’s your approval rating? How highly do you think of yourself? What would happen if the light was shown back on you? Before you start thinking too highly of yourself, you might want to take a close look in the mirror. You might want to take a hard look at your life and ask yourself: Who am I kidding? What do your actions and your words say about you? Do they reflect the love and compassion of Jesus Christ? If Jesus has freely forgiven you of your transgressions, why is it that you can’t find it in your heart to accept and love the other person who is just as frail and flawed as you are? Ask yourself, Am I a hypocrite? If the answer is yes, or sometimes, won’t you pray for Jesus to help remove the plank from your eye and help you recognize your sinful nature, and then ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to show you ways where you can lift others up rather than put them down?
Please pray with me.
Most loving and compassionate God, help us to see ourselves as we truly are. Keep us from creating false versions of ourselves, and let us be surrounded by people who we can be real with. Empower us with energy and attitude to continue growing and seeking your will in our lives. In the name of your loving Son, Jesus Christ, our savior, we pray, Amen.