Over the past couple of weeks we have seen some truly, I would say… “interesting?” news. Last week cycling “great” Lance Armstrong confessed he did in fact use performance enhancing drugs and blood doping in his cancer come back to win an unprecedented 7 Tour De France titles.
The confession came after years of adamantly denying the allegations from many former competitors and teammates. Even going so far as to take his accusers to court and question their integrity.
Then we saw a most bizarre story surface. Manti Te’o, the stand out linebacker and Heisman Trophy finalist from Notre Dame came clean on the story of the death of his girlfriend. If you are somehow unaware of the story, Te’o a senior and team captain allegedly lost both his grandmother and girlfriend during the early part of this season.
The result, a possessed Te’o played the remainder of the season in honor of his grandmother and girlfriend. It turns out Te’o had never actually met his girlfriend because it was an online relationship. The problem, he could never meet her because evidently she did not exist, ever. Te’o apparently was on the losing end of a cruel hoax.
Fair enough, but he sure did not talk about her on national TV as if they had never had met. The perception I got was one of a long time girlfriend.
In both cases these men, Armstrong more than Te’o misrepresented themselves. They tried to portray themselves as something they were not.
Funny, we sit back in amazement wondering how they could live such a lie. Honestly, it is the world we live in. All of us in some way or another misrepresent ourselves from time to time. Maybe not to this extent or in the public spotlight, but we do.
It is the reason people live in houses they can’t afford, drive cars they can’t afford and wear clothes they can’t afford. It is the reason people act differently in different circles. We want people to look at us favorably. It is all about perception. We create the perception we want people to have of us because we want to be seen (it might be helpful to read my first blog on this, Motives Matter).
Jesus warns these disciples gathered around him on a mountainside, BE CAREFUL. Be careful not to do things to be seen by others. Specifically, in chapter 6:1-18 be careful not to give, pray and fast to be seen. When you do, you are portraying a relationship with God which does not exist. Why does it not exist? Because, you are more concerned about what others think of you than what God thinks. Be careful!
So why the warning? Maybe it is simple, if you misrepresent who you are, it will eventually catch up with you. Eventually, it will all come out, ask Manti, ask Lance. When you misrepresent yourself, you deceive people. However the bigger problem, when you misrepresent yourself spiritually, you ultimately deceive yourself. You fool yourself into thinking you have a right relationship with God and eventually it will catch up to you. Jesus, goes on in Matthew 7 to remind us of this several times.
In chapter 6 Jesus tells us the “hypocrites” love to do these righteous acts in the synagogue and on the street corners to be seen by people. Is it possible Social Media is the street corner we all stand on today? With Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other outlets we have complete control of how we want people to see us. It is easy to misrepresent our self and deceive others into thinking we are something we are not. Be careful Jesus would say, because you may just deceive yourself.
Think how much time and energy and money in our society is put into worrying about what others think. Jesus was confronting a Pharisaical system which was overly concerned with other perception. Maybe not much has changed. Maybe it is why we struggle so greatly with confession. We don’t want people to know who we really are because we are terrified of what they might think. What if they found out about our struggles with anger? With alcohol? With pornography? With cheating? With lying?
The righteousness Jesus describes in chapter 5 is not rooted in “look how good I am,” but in a humbled spirit “I know who I am,” and it is far from righteous. Maybe deep down, to hunger and thirsting for righteousness is a passionate plea to seek Him rather than others opinions. Simply put, love God, love others because you can control that, Don’t spend countless hours worried about what others think because you can’t control that, so stop trying to control it by convincing everyone you are something you are not.