For Appearances’ Sake

Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Colossians 3:22

As church leaders, I wonder how many right things we do or say strictly for appearances’ sake? Let’s be honest, even as leaders among God’s people, we are not immune from having selfish and prideful hearts (in fact, it may actually come more easily for us), and just like the rest of humanity, we develop pretty highly-polished “systems” for managing people’s perceptions of us by hiding our pride and doing and saying things strictly for appearances’ sake. One translation of scripture refers to this as doing or saying things “by way of eye-service”.

Happy-MaskWe are living in and ministering to a culture that does more than just recognize this reality…it encourages it. It places the highest possible premium on our personal “brand”, which we are building every time we teach/preach, every time we make a public appearance, and every time we post something on social media. But, at the same time as our culture demands this, it also takes every opportunity to expose the gaps between what we say and what we actually do (or, better yet, what we believe). We are ministering in a culture which demands that we take a side and then destroys us for doing so. And never before have we lived and worked in a more transparent world, where it is just not that difficult for those who oppose us to see the inconsistencies and the false motives.

In this world of social media, worldwide news coverage, hidden-camera investigative reporting, and information technology, it has perhaps never been more important for church leaders to live lives of integrity and transparency…to be pretty much the same person on the inside that they purport to be on the outside. It has become an enormous undertaking to try to prop up some false image on the outside while secretly living an entirely different life on the inside. Doing and saying the right things as a matter of eye-service (for appearances’ sake) creates an untenable tension between who I am and who I want others to believe I am. Most counselors I know would say this is the very recipe for burn-out. Eventually, it will catch up to me.

And so, this post is just a reminder to us all about “eye-service”. When confronted with the tension between what we know we should do and what we would rather be doing, the solution is not to just do the right thing, without addressing our heart. That is a short-sighted solution headed for burn-out. Rather, if my heart is simply not behind doing the right thing, that is a heart matter requiring a heart solution. When we pray and God asks us, “What do you want?” and the truth is pretty ugly…then we have some work to do at the heart level. We are in trouble at the very core of our faith. And we must address the problem at that level, rather than just covering it over with good work done for appearances’ sake.

The exciting question worth pondering is this: what if church leaders got this one thing right? What if church leaders learned to live lives of integrity and to address heart problems right away rather than merely covering them over with good behavior done for appearances’ sake? What would that accomplish for the kingdom of God? Now that is exciting!

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