Read Amos 8:4-6
4 Listen to this, you who rob the poor
and trample down the needy!
5 You can’t wait for the Sabbath day to be over
and the religious festivals to end
so you can get back to cheating the helpless.
You measure out grain with dishonest measures
and cheat the buyer with dishonest scales
6 And you mix the grain you sell
with chaff swept from the floor.
Then you enslave poor people
for one piece of silver or a pair of sandals. (NLT)
No one likes religious hypocrites. It is one reason given by those who refuse to attend church. They reckon there are too many hypocrites there. To which we can only reply, “Don’t let that stop you. One more hypocrite won’t hurt.” The point being that hypocrisy isn’t confined to churchgoers. Quite literally a hypocrite is a play actor, someone acting out a role. It is part and parcel of the human condition. We don’t practise what we preach. We don’t always live up to our own desired standards.
Granted all that, there is something specially ugly about the hypocrisy of those whose corrupt daily lives are a world away from their high-principled religious observances. The prophet Amos addresses such people who can’t wait for their religious rituals to be completed so they can get back to a bit of old-fashioned bribery and corruption. They are merely dabbling in worship of God and yet deeply involved in injustice.
Does this mean we can never relate to God unless our lives are spotless? Thankfully not. God’s merciful pardon, not our mixed character, enables relationship with him. The difference between the wickedness of those addressed by Amos and the run-of-the-mill hypocrite is that one is oblivious to their hypocrisy whereas the other is very well aware of it. Being aware of the gap between our principles and our practice means we are thrown back to the mercy and help of God. That is an expression of humility.
We can’t avoid some hypocrisy in our lives. What we can do is to ensure there is a strong dose of self-awareness and humility in the mixture. God will deal sternly with the haughty hypocrite. He has a soft spot for the common or garden-type humble hypocrite.