It is called “play-acting” and it is a game children play.
Historians of the theatre tell us about drama having its origins in Greek tragedies with Greek choruses chanting the action and advancing the plot. True enough, but religious play-acting has a long and slimy history as well. In worship, both the worship of the One True God and the pagan ceremonies of the heathen, acts of presentation are used, not to pray from sincere hearts, but to achieve some sort of an effect, to move people emotionally. The actors seek to make an impression on the audience.
True worship is a presentation to God and not to people.
This unbreakable law is implied in Jesus’ words to the woman at the Samaritan well. True worship is presented to God in spirit and truth. Any pretense of worship that is really aimed at people is not worship at all; it is not worship in truth.
Masters of Pretense
The leaders of Jesus’ day were accomplished actors. Here is Jesus’ review of their on-going, serial religious epic:
- They “go around in long robes…” The costuming was great—most impressive.
- Their long, over-rehearsed “prayers” claimed the attention of worshipers who had really come to meet with God. Such a terrible bait-and-switch deception!
- They “love greetings in the marketplaces…” These celebrities love the adoration of their fans. Their publicity machines are well-oiled and functioning properly.
- They love to take the “best seats in the synagogues…” What is better than to be seen in the theatre. Preferred seating is always available.
- In between shows, they expect the reverence of the people at all public events with “the best places at feasts.”
Some show, huh? Most impressive!
Behind the Scenes, Beneath the Make-up
It was all for show, a grand, long-running pretense. The true results of this worship-tainment, were poverty stricken widows, broken promises, and wasted lives. In contrast to the costumed company playing at the Temple, John the Baptist came wearing camel’s hair and thriving on wild honey. His presentation was real with not an ounce of pretense. God had called him and he had answered. All his preaching to the crowds was actually the presentation of his life to God. Sensing the reality of his ministry, people crowded to the waters of repentance to get a fresh start in life.
The Seamless Robe
There was no pretense in Jesus, nor within the Twelve who followed Him. It simply wasn’t possible to be fake when the authentic One was standing there. He needed no fancy costume. A simple robe, woven in one piece, spoke with as much eloquence of a genuine life as did the sermons of Jesus themselves. His life was a whole, not a patchwork. He wore love and compassion and truth all in that seamless tunic, all parts of His wonderful essence: real, powerful, available, compassionate, forgiving, restorative, and laden with hope.
This was the true drama of life, not a Greek entertainment for profit. This was the epic of salvation unfolding before their eyes and drawing to the conclusion of Act One: “The Coming of Messiah.” Other Acts would follow: Act Two: “The Church in the World.” Act Three: “The Restoration of all Things.” There was no pretense in this play, no deception in this drama. It is the story of an avenging Hero rising with healing in His wings.
Pretense is a game for children. Prayer is the work of the Kingdom.
Then, in the hearing of all the people, He said to His disciples, “Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.”
John 19:23-24 NKJV
Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says: “They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.” Therefore the soldiers did these things.
Malachi 4:2 NKJV
But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings…
Lord Jesus, save me from pretense! Give me a pure heart with no base motives mixed with the good ones. Refine my life as gold is refined by fire. Let my life itself be an eloquent homily concerning Your love and grace. Give me a seamless robe, too, like the one You wore. Let there be no duplicity, nor falsity, no pretense in my walk before You and before the world. For Your glory, Lord. Amen.
My God Is Real
Words and Music: Kenneth Morris
1. There are some things I may not know,
there are some places I can’t go,
but I am sure of this one thing,
my God is real for I can feel him in my soul
My God is real, he’s real in my soul,
my God is real for he has washed
and he made me whole,
his love for me is like pure gold.
My God is real for I can feel him in my soul
2. I cannot tell just how it felt
when Jesus washed my sins away,
but since that day yes since that hour,
God has been real for I can feel his mighty power
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved