Thursday, October 31, 2019

Covering Up What’s On the Inside

Every year when Halloween rolls around, I have mixed feelings. The prevalent focus on things like witches, zombies and vampires seems disturbing, but not surprising, given our society’s fascination with evil, the paranormal and the occult. However, what’s wrong with seeing little girls dressed up in sky-blue gowns like Elsa in “Frozen,” or little boys disguised like Jack Sparrow of “Pirates of the Caribbean”?

Shops spring up in vacant retail spaces, marketing all manner of festive and frightening attire. Some adults also enjoy costume parties, donning masks and sometimes complete costumes to disguise their identities. All in good fun for the most part, although TV murder mysteries this time of year often take place at adult Halloween parties. So, beware!

But this idea of hiding our true identities is hardly new. Dramas dating back to the ancient Greeks and Romans featured masked characters scheming to hoodwink protagonists and antagonists. Shakespeare did the same, although customs of the day required that males portray even females. In those days, apparently, a woman’s place was in the audience.

But even for the many of us who have no performing aspirations, who will never be welcomed into any thespian society, we know all about acting. For instance, engaging in a heated argument on the way to church but, the moment we exit our car in the parking lot, donning Sunday smiles and acting as if nary a contrary word was uttered.

We adopt a public persona. It might be on the job, speaking from a podium, or campaigning for office, seeking to delude those seeing and hearing us from knowing who we truly are and how we truly behave in private. And we didn’t even attend Miss Polly’s School for Acting!

There is one person, however, who can’t be deceived by our outward posturing. In 1 Samuel 16:7 we read, “For God sees not as man sees. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” We don’t have X-ray vision and can’t discern someone’s inner character, so we’re easily duped, especially by those adept at presenting personal facades. God doesn’t have that problem. Just as He expertly saw which of Jesse’s sons – David – was fit to serve as king of Israel, He’s equally skilled at perceiving our inner thoughts and motives.

The Lord is right on the spot in diagnosing our “heart problems,” As Proverbs 21:2 declares, “All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart.” And Proverbs 16:2 concurs, “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” If only we had such ability.

As the verses above assert, we not only mask our inner selves from others, but there are also times when we manage to self-delude. We can convince ourselves that we’re right, that our motives couldn’t be more pure. Even when they’re not. So it’s important to perform a self-heart check to make certain we’re not hiding inside costumes year-round, not just at Halloween time.

How do we do that? The Scriptures serve as a great mirror for reflecting our inner selves. Hebrews 4:12 explains, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” How do our lives stack up against what we see in God’s Word?

As James 1:22-24 admonishes, Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” 

Halloween can be a fun, harmless, once-a-year diversion. But God desires for us to devote our lives of service to Him and His people as we truly are, sans “costume.” A term that describes this is integrity. It seems to have largely fallen out of favor in our society, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Proverbs 11:3 asserts, “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.”

In other words, if we’re diligent to be genuine, the people we present ourselves to be, we need not fear being exposed as pretending to be someone we’re not. As 2 Corinthians 4:16 promises all who faithfully follow Christ, Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” It’s what’s inside that counts most.

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