Recently, California Governor Gavin Newsom made headlines when he ate dinner with friends and lobbyists at a Napa Valley restaurant called the French Laundry. Included among the guests at the governor’s soiree were the CEO and the vice president of the California Medical Association. Normally, such an event would not be news at all. However, Governor Newsom had only days before ordered strict protocols on over 90% of Californians as part of his program to control the spread of the Corona virus. These new mandates included limiting gatherings to less than ten people, limiting the number of households represented at private gatherings, and the wearing of face masks in public. Newsom and his party violated all of these. When photographs of the event appeared on social media, Newsom was widely criticized for this and for other double standards. For instance, the governor ordered public schools closed and instead mandated at-home learning. However, his own children are enrolled in a private school where in-person learning was allowed to continue.
Faced with enormous backlash over his blatant hypocrisy, Gavin Newsom held a press conference at which he apologized by saying, “We’re all human. We all fall short some times.”
California’s governor is not the only elected official to come under criticism for violating pandemic-related restrictions. Numerous politicians have been caught defying the very rules they themselves have imposed on their constituency. This imperious “rules for thee but not for me” conduct has severely damaged the moral authority of government officials. There is no question that the citizens of a democratic republic such as the United States should reasonably expect elected leaders to live by the same standards and under the same laws that apply to the rest of the nation. One has to wonder, how much public disregard for government restrictions is inspired by the arrogant violation of these rules by those who made them?
However, it is not just politicians who are guilty of hypocrisy. In the Bible, Jesus confronts religious leaders for their pride and insincerity. For instance, in Matthew 15, the Savior pointed out the inconsistency of scribes and Pharisees who donated funds in the temple as an act of worship, but had no resources to assist their indigent elderly parents. In truth, they were concerned about being perceived as being generous rather than about actually being generous. They were hypocrites.
One tragic result of the hypocrisy of these religious pretenders was that they “shut up the kingdom of heaven against men.” (Mt. 23:13) In other words, the negative influence of their hypocrisy disguised and discredited the truth of God’s word, keeping others from actually repenting, trusting, and obeying the Lord. It kept men from heaven.
Years ago, I was conducting a summer youth outreach in Colorado. During the afternoons, I went into neighborhoods handing out flyers, inviting young people to attend. I will never forget inviting one particular teenage boy to the event which was being held at a nearby church. He told me he knew a young man who went to that church. And he told me about this young man’s well-known drug abuse, and his reputation for theft and dishonesty. Then he asked with mocking laughter, “Why would I want to go to his church?” I had no response. Why would he?
The apostle Paul encouraged the Philippian Christians to do the things they had both learned and received and heard and seen in him. (Phil. 4:9) Paul both taught and demonstrated the Christian faith in his life. His words and deeds were consistent.
In Titus 2:10 Paul tells Christians to adorn or decorate the gospel with good works. Kind deeds and godly living help the gospel. Hypocrisy hinders it.
Only Jesus lived a life completely free from hypocrisy. However, establishing and maintaining consistency between our profession and our practice ought to be the earnest objective of every believer.