Leaders are Hypocrites

Every leader is a hypocrite.

There I said it.

The word used in the New Testament for “hypocrite” is the word used for actors. Put simply, a hypocrite is someone who “does not act in accordance with their true nature”. Jesus has some rather harsh words reserved for “hypocrites”.

Matthew 23:1-3 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. 

Jesus sees hypocrisy for vile, Gospel-denying heart-plague that it is.

We must come to grips with the cold, hard spiritual reality of the situation:

Hypocrisy is a heart issue that plagues every leader who isn’t Jesus.

Does anyone live every moment perfectly consistent with their deepest held beliefs? No. Everyone reading these words consistently fails to live and lead others in line with their deepest convictions. Leaders feel the pressure to “fake it” often.

Hypocrisy is not a “they” problem it is a “we” problem”. It’s not an issue “out there” but “in here”.

CS Lewis: “If you think you are not conceited, you are very conceited indeed. If anyone would like to acquire humility I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to admit one is proud!”

Being a hypocrite doesn’t necessarily disqualify a leader but being blind to your own hypocrisy does. Leaders are easy targets for the charge of hypocrisy because they are out front and visible. Meanwhile, most leaders I have known, even Gospel-centered leaders, struggle from time to time with low-grade guilt. They know, deep down that there is a disconnect between the message or image they present and the reality of their own hearts and lives. Many leaders struggle with hidden insecurities and wrestle with whether or not they should continue leading others at all. Many would-be leaders never step into leadership roles because they fear being labeled a hypocrite when they inevitably fall short. Thankfully, for those who are trusting Christ, the Gospel that exposes our hypocrisy and various inconsistencies, then, mercifully covers us in grace and the unearned righteousness of Christ. It is this “alien” righteousness that begins to put to death our desire to “act”. Leaders are often criticized for living lives that do not live up to our message, and the Gospel-centered leader must whole-heartedly agree with this charge. Our lives are rarely as glorious as our message.

Leader, if you are able to “live out” your message perfectly, perhaps your message is not glorious enough.

The Gospel never excuses our hypocrisy. It forces us to see it for the ugliness that it is and then this Good News covers us in the beauty of something better. Real righteousness, lived and earned and given by the only leader whose life ever perfectly matched His message: Jesus.

Leaders are hypocrites. That’s true. But Jesus saves hypocrites. That’s truer.

Chad Williams


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