Most parents know about being caught breaking their own rules and feeling as if they must say, “Don’t do what I do, do what I say.” How awful to be pushed into a corner by our own children!
The religious leaders in the time of Jesus were backed into a corner too, but not by a perceptive child. Instead, the Son of God had them pegged. He’d heard their pious talk and watched their impious lives and then said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.” (Matthew 23:1–7)
This is the mind of Christ. He focuses on integrity and tells me to practice what I preach and quit trying to impress others. This is easier said than done. While playing Scrabble, one of the players quipped, “It is always easier to play someone else’s letters than your own.” We knew she was talking about more than the game. It is easy to tell others how to live, but difficult to live right ourselves. Knowing the answers and putting them into practice are two different things.
The Pharisees displayed a big part of the problem of trying to live up to our own rules. Our egos get in the way. It happens to me too. I want people to think well of me, but can easily make the worst choice in trying to impress them. I want to be honored, but then act in dishonorable ways. I want the respect of the world, but continually trip over that motivation. Putting on a veneer of ‘perfection’ doesn’t work. I am imperfect and cannot hide it.
Many years ago, I watched a video featuring the young woman who wrote, “Out of the Salt Shaker.” This book was about her discoveries as a college student trying to be “salt and light” as a Christian on campus. She said the most remarkable thing, “When I try to act like Jesus, all people see is me. But when I am just myself, people tell me they see Jesus.”
The Pharisees didn’t pick Jesus to emulate, but they were trying to be something they were not. Their high and mighty ways may have impressed a few people, and may have brought fear to some hearts, but Jesus wasn’t impressed. He didn’t speak well of them and didn’t pick any of them to be His disciples. Instead, He selected a tax collector and a few fishermen. One of those fishermen was so much ‘himself’ that his foot in mouth antics often makes us laugh.
Jesus wasn’t interested in pretense. He looked for ordinary people who didn’t put on airs or have vain ambitions. It is as Paul wrote, “Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” (1 Corinthians 1:26–31)
Those who put on a persona are shielding their real selves. When Christians do it, then that shield hides Jesus, because when we believe in Jesus, He lives in us, even gives us His mind. Only those who are transparent can be the ‘salt and light’ that He calls us to display. But when I try to put on a show, even a show of being pious and ‘like Jesus’ then I cover Him and all people can see is a hypocrite.
This week, someone thanked me for being transparent. Wow, that was nice, but I’m not sure what he meant. I suppose being oblivious is likely a good sign. When try to fake it or be something other than who I am, I know it and no doubt others do too.
My conclusion? Being myself probably doesn’t impress too many people, but I’m okay with that because God says it is His preferred way for me to live.