MORE ABOUT APPEARANCE THAN SUBSTANCE

Matthew 15: 8–9

As I gaze out into this huge public sphere, I hear a lot of people talking about serious matters, but their chatter appears to be more about the show than substance. Apparently, some people are more concerned about the show they are presenting than the actual issues they are speaking about. This is the meaning behind the scripture from Matthew 15:8. This puffery is quite common among people across the spectrum of society: the clergy, the media, the law, politics, and agencies that are supposed to be the watchdogs of society. They appear to be more concerned about theatre than substance. I hate to condone anyone because when my pointing finger is directed toward others, three of them are pointed back at me. Judge not that ye be not judged. By the same measure you judge others, you shall also be judged.

When it comes to godliness, most of our issues seem to be concerning the lack of knowledge, which leads to a lack of faith. In reference to my topic here, I want to focus more attention on Godly issues rather than worldly ones because my allegiance is with God, over and above any and all else, including the government. I realize that I’m obligated to respect man’s law as long as it does not impede upon or interfere with my right to worship and follow my Lord God, along with His righteous requirements of me.

Where these two viewpoints collide is when it comes to saying things publicly that are “politically correct.” Many times, we don’t wish to speak the truth because it might offend someone. If the truth offends, then that means there’s something inside the harmed party that takes offense to what was stated. It struck a nerve somewhere. For example, if I were to steal a candy bar and someone called me a thief, that characterization might offend me, but it also defines me. If I stole something that would make me a thief, offensive or not. The fact that someone said something to me that I took as offensive is irrelevant when truth stands for itself.

On the other hand, when people are misrepresented or spoken falsely about, that is a different matter. When I am lied about, it offends me deeply because I know the accusation is a lie. Should my reaction to the truth be the same as about lies or mere gossip? Probably not, but if you’re willing to live and die with the truth then talk, is just talk, even when it is lies… even when it hurts. Our Lord indicated that we are to turn the other cheek. By the way, I didn’t say I am always obedient in doing what the Lord says we should do. Some things are tough to handle.

This talk is more about how one should respond to idle chatter or even wrongful accusations. It is also about how some people talk a lot but there appears to be no follow-up with substance. Both angles are interesting topics to cover. However, we should make a distinction between those who claim to be godly as opposed to those who claim no allegiance to God. Such distinctions are relevant. Unrighteousness has no kindred with righteousness.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how broken our world is. I feel almost ashamed that I can’t do more to fix what is broken. I talk about things we can do or should do, but am I doing the very things I speak about, or am I just putting on a good show? Words are cheap but actions are not. It takes energy to do something that helps people as opposed to just identifying they have problems. I love how James, the brother of Jesus makes this analogy in chapter 2:14–17

“What good it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled.’ But you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead.”

This passage speaks more about the second aspect of my topic, which is all talk but no action. In our Christian community of believers, I hear a lot of talk about what is wrong in society but the same people who are complaining don’t seem to realize that charity starts at home. This means if you think someone is in need… you should be doing something about what God has revealed to you personally. As a believer, we are the Lord’s ambassadors. We can be angelic human beings in times of need for our fellow brothers and sisters. Even if they aren’t believers, we should want to relieve any pain, stress, anxiety, or discomfort from anyone just because they are our fellow human beings. Many times, we don’t see people as kindred souls. We see “us” and “them.” As a member of the body of God, they are us. The “them(s)” are the ones our Lord told us to pray for as well. Besides, most of us were lost sheep at one point and someone helped us along the way. We are to help (love) one another as we love the Lord thy God.

In fairness to many of you, there are times when we feel that we don’t have enough to offer so instead we offer or do nothing. When you do what you are capable of doing as in doing it for God, then He will multiply your offering as He did the few fish and loaves of bread that fed several thousand. God will multiply the deeds that come from your heart. He knows that you would love to give more if you had it to give so your blessing, however small it might be, is sufficient enough for God to multiply. This says more about the heart of a person than mere show or appearances. I personally love to give in secret because I don’t need to pacify my ego by doing good. When God gets the glory, I am as satisfied as can be.

The more I think about this subject the more I’m reminded that we, some of us, spend too much time judging others rather than simply doing what can be done at any given moment. Though I say “we,” what I really mean is “I.” I can’t say what others may or may not do because I do not know their heart’s intent, but God does. Rather than spending any energy on judging others, I could use the same energy towards doing something positive for someone or something. Perhaps this goes to the deeper meaning regarding the passage in James 2?

If I see someone in need, my immediate response should be, “what can I do to help,” rather than, “oh how sad that is.” A positive act would be to simply pray for that person and ask God to bless them and fulfill the need He revealed to you. There are times when we don’t know what to do or even how to pray. That is the purpose of the Holy Spirit who reads the intent of our hearts and acts accordingly. God wants us to care about and love one another. He will do the heavy lifting as necessary. Believe me, if you see something that is broken, God saw it long before you did. In fact, it was He who brought it to your attention to see where your heart is.

Perhaps you might have noticed just now how my spirit turned the criticism back around on me. I need to accept responsibility for my acts, thoughts, and deeds. Rather than complaining about what others are not doing, I need to do what the Lord reveals to me instead. That’s referred to as being convicted by the Holy Spirit. We are able to learn from our misdeeds if we allow Him to teach us. God chastens those whom He loves. Hebrews 12:5–6.

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”

One way to make sure the focus of the attention is in its proper place is to always give God the glory when you do nice things. It was because of His spirit that you were able to do so. The good in us comes from Him so you might as well give credit where credit is due. Besides, it will keep you from being conceited from time to time. That is just part of our ordinary human nature. Pride and ego are parts of our carnal beings that it is best to keep under check. When you see yourself moving in that direction call upon the Spirit and He will chasten you.

Scripture tells us in Matthew 15:8–9: “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” “Hear and understand. (It is) Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.”

This is not a complicated subject nor a sharp rebuke. Such things are very common to mankind. As mentioned, I rebuke myself more than others but I do it publicly so others can see things in themselves that they might not be willing to admit. The more we harbor acts of a sinful nature in us, as listed in Galatians 5:19–21, the more we chase evil, but the more we align ourselves with the fruit of God’s Spirit that is listed in Galatians 5:22–23, the more we honor God. I hope this has been food for thought. I love keeping my eye on the prize. This helps me to flesh out things that I should not do, but still, I do them. The more I practice the better I become. If this makes sense to you, then go out and be a blessing to someone else. To almighty God be the glory… Selah!

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Greg Middleton

Greg is a prolific writer of books, essays, blogs, and videos where he shares his opinions on life. Visit Straight Talk with Greg on YouTube.