By Allen White
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
I had my picture taken at a very cool studio the other day. I’m not that cool, so I wasn’t sure how it would go. As a new board member at Water of Life [LINK], they needed my picture for the website.
After about 20 minutes of posing and smiling, but not too much smiling, the photographer asked me to look at the pictures. The guy in the pictures was middle aged and overweight. What kind of photoshop trick was this?
The photographer asked if I liked the pictures. I told him that I really didn’t. I could tell that he was offended, so I qualified my comment, “You did a great job with the subject you had to work with.” His photography was great. It perfectly captured what I actually look like—thus my discomfort.
The image on the screen didn’t match the image in my head. I wanted the picture to come with a few disclaimers like “Allen has only been overweight for 10 years of his whole life and has recently lost 20 pounds” or “Allen works out at the gym five days a week. (Imagine if he didn’t.)” or “Remember that 46 is the new 26.” Why did I need to think that I was better than what I am when it’s okay to be myself?
We have all encountered people who come across great in public, but fall short in private. They want respect and admiration without doing the hard work of actually earning it. The less we know about them, the better we think of them. But, God is not impressed.
Rather than becoming good, they do good things so people will assume that they are good. They may hate doing good things. They might even look down on those they are serving. The bottom line is that it’s just no good.
The bigger problem here is that “they” are actually “us.” Why do we desire to come off better than what we truly are? Yes, we should all aspire to grow and allow God to develop His character in us. But, there are no shortcuts. Godly character is often forged in the fires of our problems. The abrasive people in our lives tend to have greater impact than the soft ones.
When we resort to shortcuts, we present something that’s false. If we want everyone to see how generous we are, we don’t have a generous heart as much as we need others to think well of us. We can put up a great façade. We can hide our weaknesses. We can fake it ‘til we make it. But, it’s exhausting isn’t it? And, it doesn’t get us anywhere.
Eugene Peterson translates this passage, “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don't make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won't be applauding” (Matthew 6:1, Msg). But, the good news is that God doesn’t expect you to be more than who you are.
God isn’t in love with an avatar or a façade. God is in love with you. He knows that you’re not perfect. We know that you’re not perfect either. When our reputations match our integrity, then we are the person God has created us to be. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely.
So, what if you’re prone to live larger than life and do things for show? Find out why. What need is this attention meeting in your life? Why is it important for you to have others think well of you? Why do other’s negative remarks or criticism erode your self-worth? These are big questions that God wants to help you solve.
You are enough. Just as you are without any embellishment or photoshopping.
Oh, and here’s the picture:
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