Sunday, March 11, 2007
The Upside of Hypocrisy
It was the 17th century French writer, Francois de La Rochefoucauld, who first suggested the upside to hypocrisy when he quipped, “Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue.” His point, I think, was that at least when you’re a hypocrite, the morality you’re faking at least looks like morality. Al Gore can get caught consuming 20 times the national average of electricity in his 20-room home, but at least his message against global warming gets heard. Mitt Romney can do his chameleon bit as he races from Blue State to Red State, but at least issues of social significance get debated. The Pharisees could cheat their way around the Ten Commandments and fail to practice what they preached, but at least they preached it. Yet hypocrisy infuriated Jesus almost more than anything else. Why? Is it because God (who alone is able to see the heart) is forced to look at all our inconsistencies? We know that being saved by grace hardly makes any of us sin-free; if anything, it makes the sins we continue to commit seem even worse. Would it be better to let our true selves show instead of trying to keep up appearances? Honesty and humility are the only cures for hypocrisy (empowered by that same grace), but we Christians still haven’t managed to figure how to help one another pull down our masks and risk it. We’re just too afraid of what we’ll see; or worse, we’re too afraid of what others will see in us. Best to leave the darkness of our hearts to the eyes of God?