On our faith journey, what is our most significant concern, what we do in secret, or what we do in the public’s eye? Does the image and brand that we are creating for ourselves genuinely reflect who we are in the thoughts of our hearts? Have you ever got to know someone who was almost the polar opposite of their image? People aren’t always as they seem, and we live in a world where brands are easy to build. We may be able to deceive one another, but we cannot deceive God. “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). Is the image we have created a true reflection of our heart? If someone got to know the real you in private, would it be the same person they know in public? Do we even think about our actual characteristics, or is keeping our image intact, the only thing that matters? Does character matter or just our brand? Let us go to the Scripture and seek wisdom on this matter?
“Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart” (Ps 15:1-2). Do we practice what we preach?
If you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? (Rom 2:19-22)
If we preach against gossip, do we gossip? “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts” (Prov 18:8)? Do we know God’s righteous decrees to love and extend mercy, and yet neglect to put His Word into action? Does our heart look as good as our image?
Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Rom 1:28-32)
“Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach’” (Matt 23:1-3). The Pharisees had an impeccable image, and yet Jesus brashly spoke out against them.
As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely. (Mark 12:38-40)
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 and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. (Matt 23:25-28)
Jesus saw through the haughty beautiful image of the Pharisees straight into their hearts and He called them hypocrites. We, too, are held accountable for our inward most being.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:17-20)
We must be authentic in our walk with Jesus Christ. The LORD knows our hearts. We may be able to create a godly image and brand that deceives the people, but not God.
The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.” Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord, who do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us? Who will know?” You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “You did not make me”? Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”? (Isa 29:13-16)
We spend a lot of precious time grooming so we will look just right in the public’s eye. How much time do we dedicate to “the renewing of your [our] mind[s]” (Rom 12:2) “by the washing with water through the word” (Eph 5:26)? How much time do we spend meditating on the Word of God, so that our brand, our image, our mind, and our heart are harmonious and a pleasing aroma of Christ Jesus?
But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God. Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Cor 2:14-3:3)
We are to be “a letter of Christ” (2 Cor 3:3 NASB). What do people learn about Christ when they read our life? Is our letter full of hypocrisy or authenticity with blessed “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22-23)? Be sanctified “by the truth” (John 17:17). Then our image and brand will be a beautiful outflowing of Christ’s love from within. To God be the glory! Amen.
**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, New International Version from Bible Gateway of Logos Software. Used by permission of Biblica, The International Bible Society.