“If you do this, you’re going to keep doing it.”
Minutes ago, I canceled my Netflix membership. I know that it won’t take much to start it back up, but with my first day of classes at George Fox Evangelical Seminary coming up, I figured it’d help not to have immediate distractions. Between work and school, I won’t have much time to enjoy the shows I’ve enjoyed over the summer. I won’t have much time for anything.
I have a fear of responsibility. Okay, much of that “fear” is actually a habit of procrastination, but there is a portion of it that is fear. I’m not afraid of paying bills, showing up to work or school, or even keeping my room clean. I’m afraid of moving off to a city to attend seminary only to find that I’m not cut out for it.
There is no logical reasoning for this fear; my favorite professor recommended me for this school, a professor at George Fox awarded me six credits based upon my undergraduate work, and deep down I love a good challenge. But ever since I was a kid, despite receiving good grades, I always had this fear that I wasn’t smart enough. In a society that tended to value young men based upon their athletic abilities, I was afraid I wouldn’t measure up intellectually.
Over the years, though, this fear has almost dissipated entirely.
It creeps up every now and then – especially when I’m faced with a subject I know nothing about.
And maybe we all have some degree of this kind of fear?
Maybe many of our athletic or extra-curricular achievements are really our efforts to compensate for what we think are our academic shortcomings?
I can’t answer for anyone else, but thinking through my scholastic history I can see plenty of times where I used sports, new clothes, or even my Lego creations to cover up areas where I believed I was less than intelligent in. I can recall plenty of times where I was afraid someone might think of me as stupid.
Obviously this fear of mine has less to do with my level of intelligence and more to do with my image problem. Thankfully enough, we talked about hypocrisy last night.
“We” being a few members of Emmaus Life meeting at Scott’s place for our Villages group – it’s kind of like a Bible study. Scott had us read through Luke 12:1-12 and we discussed various verses we liked, didn’t like, or didn’t understand. We ended the night by talking about an application from the passage (and by eating ice cream).
What stood out to me were Jesus’ words in the opening passage of chapter 12:
“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” (vv. 1-3)
My immediate reaction was not to think about the things I’ve said when no one else is around, but rather what I’ve thought. People can sometimes guess what you’re thinking, but more often than not, they have no clue. So if you’re thinking about how funny looking they are, they won’t have a clue (of course, they could be thinking of how funny looking you are). Yet what Scott pointed out was the importance of context: What did Jesus say before verses 2 and 3?
“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”
Jesus was warning his disciples about the Pharisees because they epitomized what it means to be afraid of how people view you. Jesus says the religious elite are making long prayers, taking the best seats in the synagogues, and always positioning themselves in places of power. And what is social power? Isn’t it entirely public opinion? Isn’t it entirely based upon how others see you?
Jesus is telling his disciples that what others think of them doesn’t matter. Instead what does matter is being a genuine person by simply being honest. Be honest when you mess up. Be honest when you don’t know something.
Plain and simple.
Obviously it’s not that simple – otherwise wouldn’t more people be honest? But what makes it so difficult? What hinders us from being honest? Maybe our friends will think less of us? Maybe our employers won’t think we’re capable? Maybe we experience every bit of social rejection there is to experience?
And that’s Jesus’ point.
“At the end of the day, what can man really do to me?” Scott asked us in rhetorical fashion last night. If, like the very next passage teaches us, we’re supposed to fear God because of His ability to cast us into hell, then why would we ever want to fear man? And yet Jesus says, “Fear not.”
Our reaction to God should be that of awe, yet not to the point of being terrified over everything we do because of what God might do to us. Why is that? God loves us. He cares enough for us to count the number of hairs on our head. If He knows how many hairs on our heads and has the ability to cast us into hell, then why hasn’t He? If we’re truly honest with ourselves, we know that we deserve something much less than heaven.
God keeps us around not for His own personal gain, but for every bit of our own gain. God is delighted in the act of giving, especially to those of us who cannot do anything by our own power, which includes all of us because we can’t make our own hearts beat or our lungs breathe. And the lives we’ve been given are watered down and stifled by our fear of anything other than God – in a word, hypocrisy. After all, isn’t hypocrisy merely a reflection of our fear of social rejection?
How do we stop it, then?
Jon Derby, a member of Emmaus Life and someone I’ve known for about a decade, gave us a wonderful piece of insight last night. He said that it’s the little things we do that change how we live and who we become. A little fib here, a little misrepresentation there and all of a sudden we have people believing we’re someone other than our actual selves. As Paul says, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump,” (Gal. 5:9).
Yet Jon – or as we call him, “Derb” – said it’s the same thing to counter our bad habits: the little things. When we encounter those moments where we have a choice to act in a way that reflects God or act in a way that reflects an image we want for ourselves, if we choose God’s way, little by little, we’ll have the habit of choosing God’s way more often than not.
In last week’s episode of Suits a scene came up that was also brought up in last night’s discussion on hypocrisy. It was a flashback to when Harvey Specter and Donna Paulsen were working at the District Attorney’s office. They were talking about how Harvey’s boss made him bury evidence that might have set two criminals free (burying evidence is against the law):
“Now why don’t you tell me why you didn’t tell me?” (Donna)
“Because you hated me when I was working in the gray; this is the black.” (Harvey)
“I didn’t hate you; I was trying to stop you… If you do this, you’re going to keep doing it.”
What Donna told Harvey that day saved his entire career as an attorney. And all she advised him to do was not to do this once. Not even once. Since that day, Harvey Specter developed a sterling reputation as an undefeated lawyer. If we make up our minds not to do the sinful things once – not even once – and to do the God things instead, imagine what kind of lives we’ll be living.
At the end of the day, we may not have very many friends, a job, or really anything when we choose to act out God’s ways in the little things. But we’ll have a much easier time standing before Him attesting for all the things we did and didn’t do. And we’ll have Jesus to back us up.
“And wisdom will honor everyone who will learn,
To listen, to love, and to pray and discern,
And to do the right thing even when it burns
And to live in the light through treacherous turns.” – Josh Garrels, “Beyond the Blue”