Pretending to be someone or something we are not is a common struggle. We want others to see us in a certain light, so we put on an act. This superficial behavior is called being a “pretender” or “hypocrite.”
The Bible has a lot to say about pretenders and their spiritual condition. God sees beyond outward appearances into our heart (1 Samuel 16:7). He knows when we are faking our faith and relationship with Him. Pretending to follow Christ while living in willful disobedience is dangerous for our soul.
- Pretenders act religious on the outside but rebel on the inside. Their hearts are far from God.
- Pretending leads to spiritual deadness and distance from God. We reap what we sow.
- God sees through false appearances and judges our secret motives and thoughts.
- True faith transforms us from within and leads to obedience, not mere lip service.
- Pretenders will face judgment, while the genuine will receive eternal rewards.
- We must examine our hearts and live authentically, rather than performance-based.
What is a Pretender According to the Bible?
The Bible contains many examples of pretenders and warnings against pretending. Let’s explore what God’s Word says.
1. Pretenders Act Religious Outwardly but Rebel Inwardly
Jesus confronted the religious hypocrites of His day with these words:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:25-28 NKJV)
Jesus confronted the religious leaders for looking righteous on the outside while inwardly harboring greed, self-indulgence, and lawlessness. He called them “whitewashed tombs” – clean on the outside but containing dead men’s bones on the inside.
Many people today are pretenders like these Pharisees. They act religious by attending church, singing worship songs, and using Christian lingo. But their private lives contradict their public image. Inside they struggle with greed, immorality, pride, anger, or rebellion.
Going through religious motions while ignoring ongoing sins is dangerous hypocrisy. We fool others and often ourselves with this pretense. But we do not fool God.
2. Pretending Leads to Spiritual Deadness
When we pretend to be closer to God than we really are, it leads to spiritual decline. Jesus told a sobering parable about pretenders:
“A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’” (Luke 13:6-9 NKJV)
The fig tree portrayed Israel’s spiritual condition. Outwardly they appeared fruitful, but God found no genuine fruit in them. For years He longed for their repentance, but the nation remained stubborn and rebellious. Without true repentance, their hypocrisy led to greater spiritual deadness.
When we pretend to be further along spiritually than we are, our hearts harden. Going through religious motions while resisting God’s inner work deadens our soul. We must deal honestly with our lack of fruit and cry out for revival.
The apostle Paul also warned Timothy about pretenders whose deception led to a seared conscience:
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.” (1 Timothy 4:1-2 NKJV)
Pretending to still embrace the faith while falling for demonic lies deadened their conscience. Only sincere repentance and honesty before God can revive a numb heart.
3. God Sees Through False Appearances
We cannot fool the all-seeing, all-knowing God. He sees beyond our impressive externals to the inner thoughts and motives of our heart:
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12-13 NKJV)
“O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.” (Psalm 139:1-4 NKJV)
King David learned this lesson after his adultery and murder. He pretended innocence until the prophet Nathan exposed his sins. David wrote:
“Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You.” (Psalm 51:9-13 NKJV)
David came clean about his hypocrisy and found God’s grace. But many pretenders continue playing games rather than repenting. They forget that God sees through it all. He knows if our heart matches our outward displays.
4. True Faith Transforms Us from Within
Genuine faith in Christ transforms us from within. As we walk closely with God, the Holy Spirit changes our motives, thoughts, and desires. The inward change then results in outward obedience and righteous living.
Here are signs of genuine rather than pretend faith:
- Repentance from sin and brokenness over failures
- Humility instead of hypocritical pride
- Love, joy, and peace instead of anger, greed, and impurity
- Integrity and honesty rather than false appearances
- Care and compassion for others; sacrifice and service
- Regular communion with God through prayer and the Word
- Obedience to God’s commands
- Holy Spirit-empowered living rather than self-effort
The Pharisees missed these heart-level transformations. Jesus told them:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.” (Matthew 23:23 NKJV)
Their pretense focused on outward tithing while neglecting inward justice, mercy, and faith. They should have done both.
True salvation sanctifies us from the inside out. As we yield to the Holy Spirit, He bears His fruit in us: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV). This inner fruit then flows outward in Christlike actions.
The apostle Paul described these inner heart transformations:
“We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV)
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 NKJV)
Genuine believers walk in an ever-deepening love relationship with Christ through the Spirit. His life and nature shine increasingly through us. Our old selfish motives and habits fade as we take on His heart and mind. His Spirit energizes and guides us from within.
Do these descriptions fit your spiritual walk? Or does your Christian profession lack inner reality? Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart and show you any areas of pretense. Waiting for Him to move from the inside out is far better than pretending with outward displays.
5. Pretenders Will Face Judgment, while the Genuine Will Receive Eternal Rewards
Scripture warns that pretenders will ultimately face eternal judgment, while the genuine will receive eternal rewards.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV)
These pretenders called Jesus “Lord” and did religious works in His name. But He said He “never knew” them because they practiced lawlessness. Their hearts remained unregenerate.
In contrast, Jesus promised eternal life and rewards to His true followers who love and obey Him from the heart:
“If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:15-18 NKJV)
Keep pursuing intimate love relationship with Christ. Remain in Him through the Spirit and His Word. Do not settle for religious pretenses that lead to death. As you walk in sincere devotion, you will bear lasting spiritual fruit and receive eternal rewards.
How to Examine Our Hearts
In light of these warnings, we must humbly examine our own walk with God. Here are some questions to prayerfully consider:
- Do I thirst for God’s presence daily or just act religious on Sundays? (Psalms 42:1-2)
- Does my public reputation match my private life? Or am I pretending? (Matthew 23:25-28)
- Do I pretend righteousness while harboring secret sin? (1 Samuel 16:7)
- Is my heart receptive when God’s Word exposes sin in my life? Or resistant and defensive? (Hebrews 4:12-13)
- Do I confess and repent from specific sins? Or make excuses and blame others? (Psalm 139:23-24)
- Does the Holy Spirit convict me over thoughts, words, and actions that grieve God? (Ephesians 4:29-30)
- Do I obey God even when it requires sacrifice and inconvenience? Or just when it’s easy? (John 14:15)
- Am I transparent with other believers who can keep me accountable? Or do I fake it around others? (Proverbs 27:6; Galatians 6:3-5)
- Is my faith bearing the fruits of righteousness? Or just religious leaves? (Matthew 7:16-20)
- Do I care about others as much or more than myself? Or only pretend to? (Philippians 2:3-4)
Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart on these areas. Make time to quietly listen for His conviction or affirmation. As you walk in the light, your fellowship with God grows stronger. Pretense blocks this closeness with Him.
Proverbs 28:13 instructs: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” Keep short accounts with God. Repent quickly when convicted. True revival comes as we stop pretending and walk in honest transparency before God.
Authentic Faith Pleases God
The antidote to pretense is humble honesty before God. He knows already where we lack integrity, so we have nothing to hide. Come to Him just as you are for cleansing and renewal. The cross of Jesus provides complete forgiveness and a new start.
God looks at our motives and intentions even more than outward actions. As we open our inner life fully to Him, He transforms us at the core. We gain nothing by surface pretenses. But sincerity and authenticity unleash true life change in the Spirit’s power.
Walking transparently and obediently before God leads to amazing blessings. As we meditate on His Word, talk openly with Him, confess sins, and deny selfishness, we experience His strength and fruitfulness. Our old identity and habits fade. Christ increasingly lives through us and shines from us. We enjoy intimate friendship with God as we drop the act.
May we all live authentic lives worthy of our calling in Christ. He modeled perfect integrity and righteousness. As we open ourselves fully to Him, He empowers our faith and worship. Our outward devotion then aligns with our inward relationship with Him. Nothing pleases God more than those who worship Him in Spirit and in truth.