“We’re much better off when we put our sins in the worst possible light – noting just how much they affect the heart of God and the people around us. Seeing the true state of our sin elicits humility and confession. Minimizing our sin elicits excuses and self-justification, speeding up our descent down the road of rebellion.”
No one likes to think they are a hypocrite. That’s why we imagine the worst displays of hypocrisy and then declare ourselves innocent.
We think of the hypocritical person as a self-righteous oaf, pounding the table to get across God’s condemnation of sin, oblivious to the stench of sin and selfishness in his own life. We picture the hypocrite with arms crossed toward other people and a nose slanted upwards. Then, we shake our heads at these hypocrites who think they’re sinless, and we feel safely distant. Well, at least, I’m not like that!
But what if this picture is all wrong? What if the true image of hypocrisy is blurry? How might sin and rebellion sneak into our lives unaware?
Hypocrisy and Lessening Your Sins
In his classic work on repentance, Thomas Watson takes time to distinguish between the grace-filled Christian and the hypocrite:
“A gracious soul labors to make the worst of his sins, but hypocrites make the best of them. They do not deny they are sinners, but they do what they can to lessen their sins…”
We like to imagine the hypocrite as self-righteous snobs who deny their sinfulness and boast in their perceived perfection. But Watson paints a picture that hits closer to home. Hypocrites don’t claim to be perfect; they just think their sins aren’t that bad.
Hypocrites don’t deny their sin; they just minimize it.
The proper response to sin, of course, is to confess it to God and to mourn over how it grieves God’s heart. Or, in Watson’s words, to “make the worst of one’s sins.” That is, to see our sin in the worst possible light we can imagine, knowing that even then, we don’t see just how egregious it is before a holy God.
The hypocrite’s does the opposite. Their response to sin is to lessen it — to minimize the significance of wrongdoing.