Almost all of us live two different lives. One life we live is one that other people only see on the outside; and the other is what we feel and are re-acting to what is really going on inside. In school we learn what outward signs of attention will please the teacher. At our job we learn to ‘put up a good front’ whenever the boss happens to walk by.
We can compare it to Halloween, where we put on our masks to be someone other than we feel we are on the inside, to change the prospective of what we think people might interpret what they see of us. We style our hair, choose our clothing and use body language to impress those around us. Over time, we learn to excel at hiding truly serious problems.
Many times people have the tendency to judge each other only by outward appearances. These preliminary judgments can easily be foolish assumptions that could lead to a false sense of security in either friendships or potential relationships.
In Jesus’ days on earth, ‘religious people,’ tried to impress each other with an emphasis on their outward behavior. They wore gaunt and hungry looks during their time of brief period of fasting, also prayed loud and long if they had any feeling others were watching or close enough to hear. Many times they even wore Bible verses wrapped around their foreheads and arms.
The book of Matthew, Chapter 6, verse1, NIV reads: “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in Heaven.”
In His famous ‘Sermon on the Mount’ declaration, Jesus blasts the hypocrisy behind what too many, seem to be such a harmless practice. God is not fooled by appearances. We cannot fake behavior to impress Him. He knows that inside the best of us lurk dark thoughts of hatred, pride and lust-filled internal problems only He can deal with.
Matthew, Chapter 7, verses 15-16a, NIV: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.”
The author of the book of Matthew and holder of one of the least respected jobs of his time; tax collector, is an example of Jesus’ understanding of just who we are and who we can be.
Matthew, (also known as Levi), ran a toll booth at the fishing village of Capernaum, collecting taxes from people transporting fish and other goods to and from the area. He probably agreed to pay Roman officials a fee for the right to do this, and he got to keep any money above that fee. Tax collectors were so corrupt that many Jews treated them as ritually unclean, like lepers.
Jesus walked up to Matthew’s booth and invited him to become a disciple. Matthew agreed and invited Jesus to supper with Matthew’s tax collector friends.
In Matthew 9: verses, 11 -13; The Jewish leaders saw them eating together and questioned the other disciples that were there; “Why does your teacher eat with such scum? Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do, Jesus replied, I have come to call sinners, not those who think they are already good enough”.
Perhaps what is most radical of all, The Sermon on the Mount introduces the possibility of living solely for God and not for appearances. At last, we hopefully can get our inner and outer lives to match.