Everyone hates a hypocrite. Often when I talk with people about Jesus, the subject of religion will come up. Because I spend most of my time talking with people from a secular background or worldview, religion is often viewed as something negative, something hypocritical. “Religious people are some of the worst offenders!” a friend of mine recently said to me. And you know what? He’s right. Whether horrific scandals of child abuse by priests/gurus/rabbis/pastors etc or even simpler issues of behaving one way in front of certain people and a different way once they’re backs are turned, religion that leads to hypocrisy is not beneficial to anyone. In fact, it is a horrible corruption of true religion – a living and vibrant relationship with God.
True religion has to be holistic – it has to permeate every aspect of our life.
True religion has to be holistic – it has to permeate every aspect of our life. Take, for example, the Nazirite in this week’s parasha, Nasso. He was to be so completely devoted to God that it affected what he could eat and drink (no grapes, wine or alcohol in general), how he looked (long hair and beard), and his relationships (he wasn’t allowed to touch a dead family member). Rather than turning a blind eye if the Nazirite did any of the things that he had vowed not to do, God required that he start his vow all over again and follow it through until it was completed. Gracious, but no room for hypocrisy here.
But what is it that is so attractive about honesty and so repulsive about hypocrisy? Simply put, we are all looking for something genuine. If the label says organic, we want organic. If your phone has an Apple logo on it, both you and I hope that it is the real deal. So if we are all looking for something genuine in life, why is it so hard to find? And if we all love what is genuine, why do we so often behave in a way that is not genuine – whether we call ourselves ‘religious’ or not?
Because we’re broken.
Try as hard as it may, a false iPhone will never be a genuine iPhone. You can replace some of the parts or install genuine software, but ultimately, it will never be the real deal. The same is true of us. While we are certainly capable of being genuine from time to time, we are all very much aware that fundamentally, we are hypocrites. We hide who we really are from others, for fear that they will find out who we really are.
The irony is, the more we need it, the less we get it.
Acceptance and love are things that we all long for and they are good and right. But when they go from natural desires to something that we need in order to feel fulfilled in life, something is wrong. We find ourselves hunting for acceptance, pleading for praise and demanding recognition – we have made something natural into an idol. The irony is, the more we need it, the less we get it. But there is a way out.
Do you remember the Nazirite from this week’s portion? One who was totally, holistically, completely dedicated to God, inside and outside? Who could live up to such a standard? One man – who came and lived a life completely dedicated to God, without hypocrisy. This Nazirite par excellence was ultimately killed by religious hypocrites who were jealous of him. But at the same time he gave up his life to die on behalf of us hypocrites in order to make it possible for us to be changed and to live a life where we don’t have to be hypocrites. His name was Yeshua – Jesus. He leads me out of hypocrisy, because he came and took the consequences of my idolatry. I don’t need to look for acceptance in people, because he has accepted me. I don’t need to worry whether he will reject me tomorrow, because his acceptance is based on his genuine love for me and not on my social performance or religious observance.
Perhaps we need to start by being honest with ourselves. Are we afraid of what others think? Are we slaves to our image? Thankfully, because of Yeshua, we don’t have to be anymore. One of his followers’ writes, “Perfect love casts out all fear.” (1 John 4:18). We are loved by the only one who matters – the Real Deal.
The Real Deal