“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed ad self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” Matthew 23:25-26
In my first and second posts in this series, I talked about the importance of having a safe community to be honest about who you really are and about the things you’ve been hiding or lying about. That’s a big risk, because you don’t know how a person is going to react to your honesty. We lie about sin and hide our shame for a reason. But Jesus asks us to behave this way with one another because we (ideally) act the same way towards him. Jesus knows us inside and out, and yet the Bible says that he accepted us even when we were at our worst (Romans 5:8).
How many times do we try to bluff God?
How many times do we try to bluff God, though? I pretend like I have bargaining power with him, or spend time reminding him of how I’m at least better than someone else. I’m reminded of the story Jesus told about the tax collector and the Pharisee in Luke 18. The Pharisee, who was legitimately an outwardly righteous person, went to his worship service and spent his prayer time reminding God how good he was. The tax collector, who was a social outcast and widely regarded as a traitor and among the lowest of sinners, simply stood at the back of the temple, looking down at his feet, and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
When you play poker, an important skill is bluffing, or getting people to believe something different about your cards than what is actually true. What’s going on is that you decide whether you can deceive the person and manipulate them into doing what will benefit you. If you don’t think you’ll be able to do it, then you fold and give up that hand.
I, however, am shockingly bad at poker. I’m not good at getting to people to believe things about my cards, so I employ what I refer to as the “camouflage strategy.” That is, I try to keep a low profile and let people kind of forget about me until I get a really good hand.
I think it’s a pretty appropriate metaphor for what we try to do with God when we hide our sin from him. We either try to pull the wool over his eyes and manipulate him into doing what will benefit us. Or sometimes we try to hide from him, hoping he’ll just kind of forget about us until things get a little better.
“Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there…
If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,’
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day
for darkness is as light to you.”
-Psalm 139:7-8, 11-12
“All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweet us away.”
Devin is on staff with Destino in St. Louis, MO.
Photo Credit: Viri G