(Photo by Selma Komisky)
Keeping Up Appearances
By Amber Johnson
In the mid-90s and early 2000s, it wasn’t uncommon to find my dad watching another quirky British sitcom in our family’s living room. “Mr. Bean,” “Are You Being Served,” and “Fawlty Towers” were often aired in the evenings on our local PBS station and were usually family-friendly. One of the hilarious British sitcoms of the ‘90s that often captured my attention was, “Keeping Up Appearances”.
The comedic sitcom follows a middle-aged woman, Hyacinth, who is a social climber and desires to be a part of the upper class. Yet, the reality of her life keeps breaking into her vision of perfection. From bossing her husband around to changing the pronunciation of her last name, she does whatever she can to “keep up the appearance” of having an upper-class lifestyle. As she tries to hide her past and the reality of her working-class eccentric family members, it leads to some comical situations.
Most of us probably don’t go to the extremes of Hyacinth in keeping up our appearances, but we’ve probably done things to put on the appearance of “having it all together” at times. In reality, God cares much more about a surrendered heart and inner purity than what we put on display to the world.
God’s Word shows us how much He values authenticity and our heart’s motivations. In Matthew, chapter 15, the Pharisees and religious leaders condemn and question Jesus about the disciples not upholding their religious traditions. Through their traditions, the religious leaders put on the façade of cleanliness and purity, but their hearts were actually far from God. Jesus explains that they valued upholding man-made traditions and outward appearances over God’s law.
Later in Matthew 23:25-26, Jesus calls out the Pharisees and religious teachers again on their hypocrisy. “…For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy- full of greed and self-indulgence! You are blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside will become clean too.”
Jesus isn’t against traditions when they’re used to point our hearts and minds back to God. He is against “keeping up appearances” by using traditions to put “holiness” on display when our hearts are far from Him. Purity comes from the inside out when our hearts are surrendered to God. Spiritual sacrifices and displays of “holiness” mean nothing to the Lord if our hearts are not surrendered to Him.
“For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”
- Hosea 6:6 (NIV)
God wants us to authentically come to Him as our broken, true selves. And this is hard. Because then we really have to be willing to let Him work on us and reveal our sin. We have to look at our motivations, thoughts, actions, and words and realize that they aren’t always pure.
With our own two hands, we can’t mold or shape ourselves to be pure or perfect enough for God. We’re unable to take back the impact our sin has caused on the world and others. It doesn’t matter what good deeds we display to the outside world or how tidy we keep our lives; we all fall short of the glory of God.
But God did not abandon us! Through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we are made clean because He took on the punishment for our sins.
“He made Christ who knew no sin to (judicially) be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God (that is, we would be made acceptable to Him and placed in a right relationship with Him by His gracious lovingkindness).”
-2 Corinthians 5:21 (AMP)
God in His infinite wisdom, purity, and love sent His Son for you. He desires an authentic and transformative relationship. It is only through that relationship with Jesus that we can be made pure and perfect before God. And that purity comes from God alone, not our own two hands. Rather than trying to “keep up the appearance” of having it all together, let us do the hard task of surrendering ALL to our only pure and holy Lord, Jesus. May we not just lift up our hands to Lord, but lift up our hearts and say, “God do your will in my life!”