This month churches all across America will have costume parties for kids. Whether they are called “Fall Harvest Festivals” or “Reformation Day Parties,” kids will show up in fellowship halls from here to Maine dressed up as little ninjas, superheroes, goblins, firemen… My all time favorite was when one of my boys dressed up as a scuba diving pirate who played for the Green Bay Packers (picture a three year old in a Packer uniform complete with shoulder pads and a helmet, carrying a sword and wearing blue swim fins, a snorkel, and an eye patch). Who says you can’t have it all!
But that is not the kind of costume I am thinking about right now. I am thinking about the kinds of costumes we read about in Proverbs 13:7.
“One man pretends to be rich, yet has nothing;
another pretends to be poor, yet has wealth.”
As people, we have an amazing ability in the area of deceit. We all know who the person is that we want others to see when they look at us. And we sometimes go to great lengths in order to ensure that they see that person – regardless of our real situation.
This Hebrew proverb should not limited to a discussion about wealth and poverty. We do all kinds of pretending. Some people pretend to be happy but they are miserable. Some people pretend misery in order to acquire sympathy – despite a relatively comfortable life. Some people project an image of great generosity but are outrageously stingy. Some people pretend to love their spouse in public but are shamefully abusive and neglectful in the privacy of their home.
This proverb speaks to the way in which most of us accommodate our great interest in having people see us as we would be seen rather than as we truly are. This proverb speaks to our desire to focus on our image rather than deal with our character. This proverb is about the costume parties that we attend everyday. In our homes. In our offices. And even in our churches. We pretend to be one thing, but in reality we are another. We know it. And the pressures of maintaining facades and keeping secrets only add to our burdens.
I really do think that churches in America have lots of costume parties. I am afraid that every Sunday grown-ups show up in sanctuaries from here to Maine dressed up as happily married, content in illness, faithful in obedience, pure in thought… I have no favorite costumes for this kind of party. All these costumes do is prevent us from dealing with real problems as true friends. How can you help me carry my burden when I hide it so well? How can you comfort me when I cry in private? How can you hold me accountable when I have such an artful “game face.”
Brothers and sisters, let’s leave the costume parties for special annual events in fellowship halls. And let’s enter our relationships and our sanctuaries just as we are. God accepts us as such and calls us through gospel transformation to a better place. Care about others enough to truly know them, and be humble enough to let others truly know you.