2 Kings 11:1–12:21, Galatians 3:1–29, Proverbs 7:10–20
What is the difference between a selfish, controlling person, a godly person who makes mistakes, and a hypocrite? Because the Bible says we look on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart, it seems to me that motivation is more important than what can be seen on the surface.
Selfish and controlling is illustrated by Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah, king of Judah. “When she saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal family. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the king’s sons who were being put to death, and she put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Thus they hid him from Athaliah, so that he was not put to death.” (2 Kings 11:1–2)
After six years, Jehoiada the priest ordered the army to put Athaliah to death along with anyone who followed her. Then Joash was made king and the people rejoiced. The city was quiet after this wicked woman had been put to death.
Joash illustrates a godly man who makes mistakes. He was only seven years old when he began to reign, but he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all his days, because Jehoiada the priest instructed him. (2 Kings 12:2) One of his accomplishments was to rebuild the temple that had fallen into disrepair.
His error was doing as several kings before him had done. When threatened by a foreign king, Joash “took all the sacred gifts” gathered by his forefathers, and “all the gold that was found in the treasuries of the house of the Lord and of the king’s house” and sent them to the foreign king as a way to make him go away. It worked, but this doesn’t seem to me an act of faith. (2 Kings 12:17–18)
The woman described by Solomon in Proverbs 7 illustrates hypocrisy and an evil heart. She is after a man and “meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart. She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait. She seizes him and kisses him, and with bold face she says to him, ‘I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows; so now I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you . . . .’” (Proverbs 7:10–15)
The description shows her evil intent, but it also says she made a show of piety by making a sacrifice and paying her vows. Was anyone fooled? Solomon warns his readers to not be fooled, so there is a danger of being led into sin by a wicked hypocrite.
The people of Galatia illustrate good deed with wrong motives. They wanted to be right with God, made the initial step of faith in Christ, but instead of walking by faith, they fell into the error of trying to please God by doing good works. They may have looked righteous on the outside, but God knew their heart and didn’t like what He saw. He inspired Paul to write, “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’?” (Galatians 3:2–6)
Faith has always been the way to live and to please God. Paul explained that law was added because of transgressions until Jesus came, but it could not give life, nor could it be the way of life in Christ. Their righteousness was by faith, and so must their way of life after they received it by faith in Jesus Christ. Living by faith is a gift, just as salvation by faith is a gift.
Evil motivations will show up in evil deeds. Godly motivations will show up in godly living. As a Christian, I have Christ in my life. My aim is to live by faith, even though I sometimes fail. This usually happens when I stop trusting God and start to trust my own judgments.
When that happens, any pretense of godliness would make me a hypocrite. The only solution is transparency — that is, openly confessing my doubts about God. Funny thing, as soon as I say it, I realize how ridiculous it sounds.