The lights come on, the camera is rolling, there is beautiful music being played, voices fill the air with their melodic song, and then the speaker delivers a powerful message. We leave from that place invigorated and inspired to change our ways, to pray more and read the Bible every day. We agree to hold each other accountable, to volunteer more, and to give more as we become better stewards. Our lives are so affected and changed that each week we will invite more and more people to hear this person, this godly and spiritual gift from heaven.
This may go on for weeks, months, years and even decades. Then it happens, one day we turn on the news and that gift is being splashed across the screen. The person we held in such high regard has been accused or even arrested, or has stepped forward to admit and unexpected truth. We try to deny it, but ultimately the truth always comes out. We have to face the fact that this person, whom we held in such high regard, was nothing but a phony.
When I was a child, I remember watching television with my grandmother on Sundays. There was one particular show she would watch, where a beautiful woman would come on stage… she would sing with such beauty and emotion that tears would stream down her face. Her husband would then take the stage and preach a message that was convicting and life changing. They were inspiring people, until the day his fraud was exposed. People who had supported their ministry were devastated, and many became like me… a hardened skeptic. I don’t fall for “shows” anymore, and I have learned to watch for the signs of hypocrisy and being disingenuous.
There are people who are REALLY good at faking it. They may appear to have it all together, the perfect husband, kids and home. They can spout out bible verses, speak in glorious ways that make them sound learned and wise, they pray out loud using fancy words and phrases, and they know the right lingo that will create an illusion of being holy and righteous.
Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.
Sometimes I will see right through a person, from the start. Yet there are other times where it isn’t quite that obvious. I may be suspicious, but without any evidence. Or, the person might be really good at hiding their true self. Humans are incapable of hiding truth for that long though, eventually we begin to see signs that things are not quite how they are being presented. Then over time, particularly as the person becomes more comfortable with you – or confident in their ability to deceive – they truth beings to come to surface. We can see through the facade.
The man who acts like a loving and caring father out in public, but verbally abuses his children or wife.
The pastor who gets caught in an affair or misusing tithes and church funds.
The woman who comes off as a sweet and kind woman at church, but in her home she screams and treats her family like they are nothing.
The ministry leader who prays for spiritual purity in the youth, while he is grooming certain students to be abused.
I am not talking about the person who gets caught up in a singular bad decision, where they lost good sense because of the temptation in front of them. We are all sinners and have the capability of atrocious things. I am talking about the person who is consistently and purposefully this way. They put on a good show for others (and maybe they think it’s impressing God) but in their heart they are truly not changed, in their homes they are the exact opposite of what they preach or teach.
These are people who have a false spirituality. They know all of the right words, all of the traditions, and how to present themselves in a way that sells their best characteristics. But inside they are corrupt, manipulative, and deceitful.
Would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart.
God knows the heart, and He will shine light on the darkness.
For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.
These are people who will even try and garner your sympathies as they wallow in their own sin, but it’s just for show. They are not really interested in changing themselves, they just want to make sure you can’t speak against them. It’s a guardrail that they put up to protect themselves. It allows them to speak their truth (sometimes harshly) by tagging on a “I am not perfect” clause as they critique you. They will claim deliverance from this or that sin, so that after they have torn you down … they can build you back up in as their own image bearer.
People with false spirituality are not trying to make you look Christ-like… hardly! What they are trying to do is to mold you to look more like they do, they are doing it for the glory. They shout “LOOK AT ME! Look at what I have done. Come, be just like ME!”… and God is not part of that equation.
So, how do we spot “false spirituality” –
Pray for Discernment – ask God to give you the wisdom and the knowledge to see through those who are frauds.
Pray for Transparency – pray that God will reveal their hidden truths to you, or the public as a whole.
Be Observant & Listen – you will begin to notice things that don’t feel quite right, or they will say something that will cause you take pause. The more you are around them, the more frequently this will happen.
Look to Others – let me be clear, I am NOT advising you to gossip about a person. What I am saying is see how others act around them. Are there people who seem to have modeled themselves to be just like this person? That’s a clue. Just as much on the other side, do you notice that the wise people in your church or community are avoiding them like the plague! That’s a clue too.
Who Do They Credit – when there is blessing or praise to be given, who does this person credit the glory to? If they are constantly looking for the pat on the back, the attention, the credit, the glory … be careful. “Look at what I did…” is just as bad as “Thank you Lord for allowing me this success….”. In both cases, this is a person who is working in their own strength, on their own agenda.
No one is going to be perfect, and if you are not careful you can discount just about anyone from being in your life because they are failing or sinful SOMEWHERE. A genuine person isn’t going to put on the act of spiritual superiority, they are more interested in trying to address their own sin issues than trying to solve everyone else’s.
I recall a woman I was speaking with was sharing a ministry vision, she wanted to create a website where Christians could essential log their community service hours. She wanted the world to see the good that Christians are doing, so they would see that we are not hypocrites and that we are actively striving to make a better world.
In theory, that sounds good. But is that biblical? Is that actually a ministry?
It was just another way to get a pat on the back for doing a good job. It was another way of saying “hey, look at me and what I do!” It didn’t allow God to get the credit, it was a place where instead each person would be able to get the credit they felt they deserved.
“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
This is also an great example of “false spirituality” because it gives an appearance of godliness. When we boast about ourselves and our accomplishments for God, we are actually boasting only of ourselves. If we truly wanted God to have all the glory, we would leave our names out of it entirely. We are warned that as the days draw closer to Christ’s return, false spirituality is going to be on the rise as much (if not more) than sin and decay in the world. When we encounter false spirituality, we must flee from it so that we are not corrupted by it.
But know this: Difficult times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people!
For among them are those who worm their way into households and capture idle women burdened down with sins, led along by a variety of passions, always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of truth.
2 Timothy 3:1-7