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Overcoming Duplicity

Note: This is the eleventh article in a series called Overcoming the Five Failures of Us. Previous articles are always available at

Revelation 3:1-3, “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.”

Duplicity is defined as deceitful, dishonest, or misleading. In Sardis, they had developed a public reputation that did not match their private reality. While they were able to hide their duplicity from human eyes, they could not hide it from the eyes and judgment of the all-seeing and all-knowing God.

Duplicity is hypocrisy. In Matthew 23:25-28, Jesus called it being white-washed tombs. He hammered the religious leaders — those who should have known better — for their hypocrisy. Matthew 7:21-23, Depart from me, I never knew you, is a chilling declaration to the duplicitous. So is the judgment of Ananias and Sapphira. See Acts 5:1-11.

Duplicity sometimes leads to scandal, but not always. We humans can be very successful at duplicitous living. This is why we cannot judge others — even if they are living exceptional Christian lives. We see only the outside; God alone sees the inside — the private world of the heart and mind. See II Samuel 16:7 and Hebrews 4:13. Of all the human failures; duplicity may be the greatest trouble we heap on ourselves.

Back in 2021, the Christian world was rocked by the news that the late Ravi Zacharias, a world-renowned speaker and defender of the faith, had lived a double life. He died in 2020, just two months after announcing he had cancer. Over 48 years of ministry, Ravi had preached in 70 countries and written 30 books. He was greatly respected.

After his death, it was discovered that Ravi had sexually abused women for many years. He had hundreds of inappropriate pictures of women, many of whom he knew personally and had abused and manipulated. On top of that, he had misappropriated funds intended for humanitarian purposes to pay for sex and to support the women he was abusing. Ravi’s double life clearly demonstrates our human ability to live two very different lives — one public and one private.

His example is extreme, but friend, you and I have the same capacity. We each have a private inner world — one unseen by anyone else. If your private world does not match your public world, then you are living a duplicitous life.

Here’s the good news: Jesus called us to overcome duplicity. If He called us to it, then it must be possible.
Steps to Overcoming Duplicity

First, clean the inside of the cup. Matthew 23:25-26. Live moment by moment in the disciplines of confession and surrender. Be honest with God, yourself, and others. Live with nothing to hide from others — and nothing to prove to others. Allow God’s transformational grace (Word, Prayer, Spirit, Body, Mission) to renew your heart and mind.

Second, walk in the light. Evil seeks darkness. See John 3:16-21. Live in the open. What are you hiding? Do you really think God doesn’t see these? You are only fooling yourself. You are destroying your potential and putting the people you claim to love and the mission of God at great risk. You are storing up God’s wrath against you.

If you struggle with duplicity, then accept the fact that you can’t afford to maintain privacy. If you have a spouse, be open with them. Share your passwords to your devices. Invite them to use them regularly. Do not maintain secret bank accounts, cell phones, or online activity. Get your life out in the open and keep it there.

Married or not, find someone to be your full accountability partner. You must take action to allow light to flood every nook and cranny of your life. If you don’t, things will take root in those dark cracks — and what grows in the dark is not good. Don’t lie to yourself, don’t make excuses, don’t self-justify, and don’t blame shift. If you’re keeping something in the dark, then confess to God by calling it what it is — duplicity and hypocrisy. Then, get it out into the light.

Third, live a singular life. Live in the peaceful blessing of personal unity — a life where the inner world and the outer world are the same world. Doing so provides great peace.

Maintaining two lives requires a terrible amount of work and detail. Mark Twain once quipped, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” Determine to be who you are, no matter where you are or who you are with. This is the singular life — a life of personal unity and honesty.

It can be done. While Ravi is an example of duplicity, Billy Graham is an example of honesty. Billy understood the vulnerability of duplicity and took intentional steps to protect himself and his fellow leaders from this insidious failure. Google “The Modesto Manifesto,” and you can see just how Billy’s team protected themselves. You and I can do it too.

It’s a new year. Why not start it by taking these steps? It won’t be easy, and there may be pain along the way, but the pain will be worth it — of this, you can be sure.

Father, you see our weaknesses and failures. You have full access to our thoughts and attitudes. Nothing in all of creation is hidden from you. You understand our vulnerabilities, and you provide grace to empower us to overcome them. Help us to live in that grace — to tap into it every moment — so we can live the singular life of full and open honesty. Amen.