When Do Christians Get to Use the "F" and "H" Words?
When to Stay Silent, and When to Throw Grenades of "Fraud" and "Hypocrisy"
My apologies for the clickbait title, dear reader. But things are hard all around these days. And the question must be shouted: when do Christians get to use the words FRAUD and HYPOCRISY?
Our culture spouts those words the way it downs Netflix series and Xanax, so we need to consider when it is and is not profitable to think and speak in these categories, about what we see in the world.
Let’s begin with the low-hanging fruit - what is not profitable:
If you are the sort of person who shouts “FRAUD!” whenever your team loses an election or a Super Bowl, you’re, well, a loser.
If you see a conspiracy behind every rock and bush, and if you believe everything you read that suits what you want to see, it’s hard for me to defend you from the label “kook”. “Denier” too. But more on that religious term later.
If your cultural engagement is limited to shouting “HYPOCRITE!” at every politician who calls for lockdowns and then eats at a fancy restaurant with their maskless friends or family, well, you’re right - and you’re unprofitable. In our day of mass media, with cameras in every pocket, politics IS hypocrisy. There can be wisdom in thinking through hypocrisy1. But if you only yell “hypocrite!”, you’re just a fish unprofitably yelling “WATER!”
If you want your candidate to win, no matter how, by hook or by crook, well, you’re thinking like a partisan hack, not a Christian citizen. Not someone who is for the truth.
So that’s what we’re not to be, in this business of calling out fraud and hypocrisy. But it’s always easier to say what we’re not. What should we do and say, with what we see?
Be silent, right? Sometimes - see Proverbs 11:12. It’s required for listening - Proverbs 18:17. But wisdom also speaks truth (Proverbs 8:6-9). That’s how we find the knowledge we need. As I tell couples in marriage counseling: I’m on no one’s side, except the side of the truth. If we talk in truth, then we’ll be on the same side, and it will go well. If not, then not, and it won’t. Thus sometimes Jesus was silent, and sometimes he called people whitewashed tombs and sons of the devil. “Dear spade, you’re a spade.”
Then there’s the Lord’s straight-shooting half-brother James. On the one hand, he says in his letter
1:26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.
Yep. Yet later he writes:
5:1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you. (Emphasis mine.)
In short, he yells “FRAUD!” Now we’re getting somewhere.
We must first define the fraud that James sees. It’s committed by the rich (v. 1), the elite - the landowners (4) of the day. They get rich and stay rich by fraud - that is, by means of employing people, and then not paying them (4). They get out of paying them by bringing trumped-up charges against them - see 2:6:
Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court?
The core of the problem is that something valuable - that which is necessary for a livelihood and life - is not where it should be. It’s in the wrong place, by deception. We see this “misplacement” in the interesting language James uses in 5:4. We would expect him to say that the laborers cry out to God - after all, they live in a subsistence culture, and what is necessary to live has been held back from them. The rich use their power and influence to essentially condemn them to death - they murder them (6), under a veneer of respectability, since it happened in open court.
But James also says the wages cry out against the rich, and to God. The language here echoes that used by God to Cain, after he murdered Abel:
Genesis 4:10 And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.
Abel’s blood “cried out” to God, because this thing so valuable to life was not where it should be - on the ground, not in Abel. In the same way, the life and livelihood of the laborers are not where they should be: instead of being on their table, in the form of daily bread, it wraps the bodies of the rich, in fine clothes, and gold and silver.
James’ big point: you think your riches are for you. But God sees what’s happening, and in the end, you will tragically see that all along you were laying up something that’s not for you, but AGAINST you - evidence, in the courtroom of heaven, of your fraud. And all that “wealth” will instead - James doesn’t mince words - melt your flesh forever.
The essence of the fraud is this: the rich elite use their power and influence to deceptively shift that which is necessary for livelihood and life from where it should be, to enrich themselves.
Do you see this happening anywhere today?
It is interesting to note that James calls a fraud a fraud after the court case has sanctioned it. James may be from a backwater town in Galilee, but he was born with two eyes in his head. The Bible never commands us to act like Leslie Nielsen, in the move The Naked Gun, with all the explosions and fireworks behind him: “Nothing to see here! Disperse! Nothing to see here!”
Using the eyes in your head, do you see this happening today?
I began this COVID journey by saying to my church, “Submit to the governing authorities - Romans 13. I don’t want to do more funerals than I need to.”
But over time, with my eyes firmly in my head, I’ve come to a different observation.
And that observation aligns squarely with James’ definition of fraud:
Our governing elite clearly do not drink the snake oil they’re selling us. As I said above, this is where wisely analyzing hypocrisy can be very instructive for us. I discuss this further here.
There are two stories regarding the destructiveness of the COVID illness. But only one of those stories is regularly censored by social media, big tech firms, and the larger media. Again, like James, I may have been born in the Midwest, but I was born with two eyes in my head.
This censoring aligns neatly with these elite’s financial interests. In the last year, over $200 billion of wealth has shifted from small businesses in this country, to Amazon, Wal-Mart, Apple, Google, Facebook and others.
Thoughtful, sober reports continue to push through the censorship sieve that question the religious orthodoxy of the savior named lockdown.
For instance, most recently a report came out of Johns Hopkins University’s News-Letter, questioning whether there have actually been any “excess deaths” in our country this year.2 The report essentially questions the CDC’s “excess deaths” number, since that number requires one to estimate an “expected” number, to then calculate what is “excess”. The author, Professor Briand, instead looked at the the leading causes of death, comparing them to prior years. She found that death by those causes - like heart disease - dropped precipitously this year. She argues that the only way to account for this is the massive miscategorization of death from that cause to “COVID.”
What is most instructive here is not that the News-Letter removed the report, and then reposted it, after an outcry. I’ve come to expect that. What is most instructive is their commentary: essentially refuting the report by using the very CDC data that Professor Briand was questioning. You don’t bring circular logic to a truth fight.
The report calls into question the entire (previously untested) idea of mass lockdowns, and whether this crisis is not actually a fraud, by James’ definition - the wealth of countless small business owners and families deceptively shifted and now located where it should not be - in the bank accounts of Cook, Bezos, Zuckerburg, Walton, et al.
I invite you to consider the Johns Hopkins report for yourself, and make up your own mind.
You might consider other notable examples, these two from the UK:
The number of “excess deaths” of people at home, probably from not seeking necessary medical care3
The effect of the lockdowns in the rate of suicidality4
Perhaps you’ve seen others. Consider these for yourself, and then ask, when do we get to use the “F” and the “H” words? And not be losers, kooks, “deniers” or hacks?
In my view, the answer is right about now.
Now, you may disagree. Other brothers that I will spend eternity with say there is “absolutely no credible evidence” of the lockdowns being an act of bad faith.5 I respectfully disagree. However, it is not a coincidence that just four verses later, James says this:
5:9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.
In our disagreement, James gives us no room to grumble in our hearts about each other - grumbling being resentment towards God and judgment on the other, that He could allow such a one who believes such things into His family. But the job of God and Judge is already taken, and therefore the quickest way to invite judgment in all this is not to read the science wrong, but to grumble against my brother.
So then, for those who disagree, for those who stay at home, for those who gauge the threat differently, for whatever reason, there is no judgment, in our disagreement. Not on my end. I hope not on yours.
Because James also commands, in the next verse, for us to wait patiently for the Lord’s judgment, like the prophets - that is, speaking truth, like James. Thus as I speak, I hope you don’t resent me.
Because I seek to speak for a specific purpose. It’s in the last two verses of the letter, which in my view is the point of the whole letter:
19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
James speaks such graphic words about the fraud he sees, not to rail, but to redeem.
He’s freed to pursue redemption not just railing, because he has not made the fraud itself, or the wealth it misplaces, a thing of ultimate significance. What is of ultimate significance is the soul of man, before the judgment seat of God. So then He leaves room for the judgment of God, but he does not remain silent. He calls a spade a spade, in order to redeem, and do good.
In my view of the present, that means I must speak in order to seek the welfare of the city God has placed me in, since in its welfare I find my welfare (Jeremiah 29:7). I don’t speak to save the Church. She’s been through a lot worse than this. She will endure, into eternity. I’m not worried about that. I’m worried about the people I’m called to shepherd, and the people of my city, who are seeing their livelihoods siphoned away . . . for what?
In my view, it’s because of a sinfully disproportionate response to a threat, in the same vein as the internment of Japanese citizens in California during World War II. Except now we’re interning everyone. Yes, our government is doing it under the legalized veneer of saving lives, but like James, I see “fraud” all the same.
If you do too, then I invite you, along with James, to speak up for the good of your city. Where I live, our county supervisors are meeting soon to authorize stiffer fines for individuals and businesses, and more roaming officers for enforcement. I’ve encouraged everyone in our congregation to consider the evidence above, and speak their own Spirit-led mind on the matter - either way, with no grumbling either way - to our county officials.
Fraud has always been with us, from the beginning. It was fraud that led to the fall in the Garden - the serpent defrauding God of what was rightfully his - glory - by deceiving Adam and misplacing that glory onto man, and the serpent, and the ground. So we should not be surprised when we see it today. And sometimes the love that redeems fraud is quiet, like a lamb led to the slaughter. That’s the patience of Job (5:11), the patience of our Lord, that redeemed us from all our fraudulence, on the cross.
Yet as we wait for His return, we may also speak in love: to call a spade a spade, for the good of our neighbor, out of the compassion and mercy shown to us in Christ. And for all who defraud to repent and turn to him in faith, because the blood of Christ covers a multitude of sins. The restoration that God brings to modern-day Job’s may very well come from our speaking.
See my other article, “The Wisdom in Gavin’s Dinner and Nancy’s Salon”. https://jedwrote.com/p/the-wisdom-in-gavins-dinner-and-nancys↩︎
Here is the original study: https://www.jhunewsletter.com/article/2020/11/a-closer-look-at-u-s-deaths-due-to-covid-19. And here is a fairly evenhanded commentary: https://pjmedia.com/news-and-politics/matt-margolis/2020/11/27/johns-hopkins-study-saying-covid-19-has-relatively-no-effect-on-deaths-in-u-s-deleted-after-publication-n1178930↩︎