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 my youngest 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.”
It is interesting to me that the Hebrew language doesn’t have a word for “pretend” – as either a verb or an adjective. What the Hebrew literally says if that some people “make as if they were rich…” or, “make as if they were poor…” The word pretends works well in communicating the meaning. But the bottom line is that we as people 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 put on our “game faces” – regardless of whether or not the reality is on our heart. This proverb is not so much about money as it is about that kind of discordant tension that we so often live with. 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 think 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 sanctuaries just as we are. God accepts us as such and loves us to a better place and so must we who bear his name and live by his Spirit according to his word. We are Christians.