Six Ways the Church Becomes Hypocritical

A hypocrite is someone who acts differently than his or her stated beliefs. In one sense, we’re all hypocrites because none of us live up to our own standards.

We’ve all heard the claims about how the church is full of hypocrites. It’s easy to dismiss these complaints as unfair. We shouldn’t.

Your attitude and actions should match your belief. Jesus expressed concern over religious hypocrisy. In Matthew 6 and Luke 11, He denounces hypocritical givers, hypocritical prayers, hypocritical fasting, and hypocritical judgmentalism, among others. Jesus was tired of the false piety of the Pharisees, specifically how they used religion to leverage power.

Christian hypocrisy occurs when you make yourself the priority over God. Often, hypocrisy is an accusation leveled at a particular person. But churches can become hypocritical and cultivate a culture of hypocrisy as an organization. How does this happen?

1. The church becomes fixated on external preferences and not internal devotion. This kind of hypocrisy occurs when we elevate our preferences to the level of Scripture and lower others’ preferences to the level of sin. Church preferences never saved anyone. Let’s keep the main thing the main thing.

2. The church falls in love with commitment but neglects people. Jesus condemns the Pharisees for loving what they were doing more than why they were doing it. They loved the system more than the people they were supposed to serve. Commitment is important. Commitment that neglects people is hypocrisy.

3. The church leaders seek religious prominence instead of humble service. Church leaders who feed off the attention of others will face the temptation to raise their own names above that of Christ. Serving people in a way that glorifies God requires humility.

4. The church hides double standards with artificial religious rules. Well-intentioned rule-followers can be swept into hypocrisy. Artificial rules can hide double standards, but they also confuse the message of the gospel.  

5. The church kills the heart of worship with a religious presentation. What Abel gave to God was an acceptable offering because it reflected the true heart of worship. What Cain gave to God was not acceptable because it was a religious presentation. And what happened next? The hypocritical brother killed the worshiping brother. The heart of worship is complete surrender to King Jesus, not a religious presentation.

6. The church adds to the gospel to burden people. Religion becomes a barrier to salvation when the church adds rules to the gospel as a prerequisite for salvation. Nothing is more hypocritical than burdening people with the false gospel of legalism. When salvation is a moving target, the church becomes a vehicle for oppression.

One of the main antidotes to hypocrisy is a culture of repentance. When people live out repentance, hypocrisy becomes much less of a problem in the church.

Frankly, on this side of heaven, a perfect church would be a crushing burden. You would ruin it the moment you joined! You don’t need a perfect church. You need a perfect Savior. The church is called to be authentic.

Ultimately, hypocrisy dies when a church becomes sold out for the good news of Jesus.


Posted on September 29, 2021

As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
More from Sam

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • This is part of a broader pattern of the Church watering down the faith and twisting the Gospel to fit with secular culture. Take divorce for an example. Jesus says in Matthew 19:9, in one of the few moments he speaks directly and without cryptic language, “Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.” But the Catholic Church has ignored this and made its own list of viable reasons for annulment that disregard Jesus’s own direct words, like impotence, coercion (like shotgun weddings, which by condemning, the Church is enabling single parenthood and out-of-wedlock pregnancy), and a vaguely defined incapability to fulfill the necessities of married life.

    Or how about natural family planning for another example. NFP is just a euphemism for natural contraception and goes against the procreative aspect of sex that is supposed to accompany the unitive. The Church condemns artificial birth control and abortion for distorting the purpose of sex by removing the procreative aspect but then turns around and says natural contraception is fine. Last time I checked, chastity was a virtue and lust a vice, but here the Church is allowing for lustful non-procreative sex.

    There are numerous other problems with the modern Church, but the clergy acts as if all the rules and statements made by the Church are just as infallible as dogma, which they aren’t. The Church administration is made up of thousands of people who are equally as sinful and corrupt as laypeople and are capable of leading Catholics astray, but clergy and unthoughtful Catholics will chastise you for promoting the true Gospel and intellectually consistent moral teachings.

  • The hypocrisy’s origin is simple: creedalism and exclusivism always lead to antinomianism. No exceptions.
    If you are saved by faith instead of faithfulness, you will become lawless.
    You believe in what Jesus did, but dismiss what he stood for and what he commanded as being out of reach, conflating sinlessness with righteousness.
    You take Romans 3 out of context to excuse your behavior, ignoring the rest of the Bible entirely when it comes to who is righteous and who isn’t.
    You believe that adopting a creed and calling Jesus “Lord, Lord” (or “Lord and Savior”) is required to get God’s attention and his saving grace instead of being a good person, because you say that trying to be a good person is the “works” that Paul preached against (to the Jewish Christians who had just moved back into Rome when his letter was written) instead of the “works” of getting circumcized, keeping kosher, and reciting traditional prayers.
    In other words, Christians don’t become good people because they don’t believe in being good people. They believe in “getting saved.”

  • Great article Sam Rainer, I believe the church will improve when we start preaching and teaching Christianity instead of religion.

  • Great post!
    Is there a full message that goes with this? If so, I’d love to see it.

  • I have also seen churches forgive the sins of one person (generally an old lady who was there every Sunday) while telling others there is no forgiveness. Sometimes what is taught in Sunday school is moderate and does not match the hard line sermon. Even worse is when a proof texted sermon takes every verse out of context and is used to argue something that the verse was never intended to mean. I have been a part of an entire generation (generally the younger) condemned to hell from the pulpit for the minor sins of one person in that generation while the church leaders sat there and condoned it.