Is it better not to if I cannot do something with a cheerful heart?

Q: The Bible condemns hypocrisy very strongly. Does this mean that it is better for me not to do anything (e.g. attending the means of grace or having fellowship with other Christians) if I cannot do it with a cheerful or grateful heart?

Yes, it is true that the Bible condemns hypocrisy very strongly. In the Old Testament, the LORD, through Isaiah, calls Judah “Sodom and Gomorrah” (Isa 1:10) because of their hypocritical worship. In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus calls the Scribes and Pharisee ‘Whited Sepulchre’ (Mt 23:27) for the same reason.

However, I do not think that this means we should conclude that it is better for us to not to attempt to do what is right or to obey God’s commandments if we cannot do it cheerfully or gratefully. There is, we must understand, quite a difference between being convicted that something is wrong and not being able to do with a cheerful spirit. Indeed, if we would all cease to do anything but what we can do with great eagerness, then none of us would do anything, for none of us can claim to have a perfectly pure motive—at least not in this life.

Remember that anything we do can only be acceptable to God if it is brought about through “an actual influence of the… Holy Spirit, to work[ing] in [us] to will and to do of His good pleasure” (WCF 16.3; Phil 2:12). However, nowhere in the Bible, do we find God commanding us to do anything only if we perceive that we have the help of the Holy Spirit to do it cheerfully and gratefully. On the contrary, we are commanded to do all things as responsible and obedient children. So the apostle Paul, in the verse prior to telling us that it is God who works in us to do and to will of His good pleasure reminds us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:11).

In other words, I believe that even if we cannot find it in our heart to do something that is right and good considered by itself, we should still do it. This is provided, we are not convicted that it is wrong for us to do it. As we mentioned in the answer published last sabbath (see NTIAGQ in PCC Bulletin, vol. 12, no. 30 dated 23 Jan 2011), it is hypocrisy to do what your conscience forbids even if it may be right according to the Law of God.

In other words, if you are convicted that it is wrong for you to do something based on your understanding of Scripture, then you should not do it. But if, in fact, your conscience tells you that you should do it, but there is a reluctance in your heart for various reasons, then it is not only not wrong for you to do, but it is imperative for you to do it in obedience to your conscience.

But when you do, you should, knowing the reluctance in your heart, ask the Lord to work and to will in your heart that you may do all things with sincerity. I believe the Lord will answer your prayer, and He will bless the labours of your hand when you approach it in this way.

Therefore, despite your reluctance, seek to attend to the means, confessing to the Lord the dullness of your heart and asking Him to deepen your love for Him and His means. So continue to have fellowship with the saints, confessing to the Lord your desire to be alone, asking him to grant what he commands.

I believe that in the way of obedience, even if it is half-hearted obedience (so long as we recognise it and confess it), we will find the Lord’s blessings. So press on, and soon the Lord will grant you eagles wings to serve Him with true joy.