Authenticity is a concept found throughout the bible. Most remarkable is when Jesus refers to the Pharisees. The Pharisees were considered the “religious” leaders of the day, the “official interpreters of the Law of Moses” Matthew 23:2 says. Later in Philippians 3:5, Paul, having been a Pharisee, tells us that the Pharisees demanded the strictest obedience to Jewish law. So they knew and taught the law. And people deeply respected and epitomized them as the standard, the example which others should seek to follow.
But Jesus, seeing the heart, mind and motives, saw a very different picture of the Pharisees. When he’d refer to them, he wouldn’t talk about how righteous they were or how they were such great people; instead he’d usually start with, “Woe to you! Hypocrites!” and talk about the truth as he saw it: they weren’t who they appeared to be, that what people saw on the outside wasn’t what was really on the inside.
Matter of fact, in Matthew 15:8 & 9, Jesus refers to a scripture in Isaiah 29:13 that was a prophecy about the Pharisees: “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote” (i.e. rote meaning routine, repetitive or habitual in nature; without thought of the meaning behind an action; in a mechanical way). Later in Matthew 23, Jesus reveals the extent of the issue: “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! 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 blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too. What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Jesus uses the word “hypocrite” nearly every time he talks about the Pharisees. So it is important to note that the Greek word Jesus used, Hypokrites, was originally a reference to an actor on stage in a Greek play who would wear various masks and costumes throughout the play depending on what role he was playing. By using the word Hypokrites, it is as though each time Jesus addresses the Pharisees by yelling, “moral counterfeit!” or “religious counterfeit!”
So they looked like the real deal to everyone around them but they were just really good at acting the part. Their emphasis was on the external, the mere ‘doing;’ maintaining routines, keeping up a certain appearance and reputation with the people. However, inside there was no genuine substance. No heart or thought behind what they said or did. No true desire or motive to please God. As Jesus pointed out, the internal and external were so disconnected that it’s as though they were like two separate people.
So where might inauthenticity show up in our lives today? Unfortunately, everywhere; in our relationships, our jobs, our social media presence, our commitments, our service to others and even to God. What does it look like in action? Here are some common examples:
- Saying or doing things because you know that’s what people want to hear or what they would expect in a certain situation
- Volunteering in the community or serving at church out of mere habit or obligation (remember our word rote?)
- Intentionally creating or maintaining an inaccurate representation of who you are publicly, including on social media
- Staying in something that violates your values, who you are at your core, or Christian morals, be it a position, place, lifestyle or relationship
So often we go through the motions, just keeping up appearances so people will assume certain things about us. But looking inside, it’s not who we are at our core, even if it’s who we want to be. Out of habit or obligation, we take on new commitments or maintain certain responsibilities, hoping no one will find out what we really think or feel so we can just push through it; we just keep telling ourselves that our heart and mind will eventually catch up… but they never do.
Here’s the thing, all these small pieces of inauthenticity add up to create the totality of our lives and then before we know it, we’re wondering whose life we’re living and why we feel so off, tired or out of control. What kind of life is that? Is Christ’s intention for us merely to act out his principles without them truly changing who we are on the inside? Many of the above things might not seem like a big deal, they may even seem normal; but that’s the difference between our thoughts and standards and those of Christ’s. Jesus is more concerned about having our heart and mind, and the intention behind what we say and do than the actual doing.
In our scriptures above, Jesus says address the inside first and the rest will follow. No more faking. No more pushing through. No more expending so much time, so much energy and so much effort on keeping up appearances. You can finally breathe, finally be real. What would that sort of freedom mean to you? In what specific ways would that change your life for the better?
So I’ll end this with a challenge for youJ. First, realize you can’t do this alone. If the point is to be accountable to God (over man), strive to be like him and glorify him, then we need to involve him in the process! So start with prayer! Ask him to reveal to you the areas where the inner and outer don’t align – where you essentially have a double life and then ask that he would not only change your heart to be truly tender and compassionate towards others (yes, even those people who you don’t like or consider your enemies) but that he’d also give you the desire, willingness and ability to make and stick with genuine, heart level changes in these areas.
Second, ask yourself:
- In what ways does who others think I am align not align who God knows I am?
- What key areas of life do I feel God revealing an immediate need for authenticity in?
- In what ways has being inauthentic in these areas impacted me and others - what has stolen from me and others in my life? How have I been using it as a crutch?
- If you were able to flip a switch that allowed you to suddenly be truly authentic in these specific areas, what would that look like? How about 1 year from now, how does life look different?
- What is one thing I can do this week in 1 – 3 of these areas to move closer to an authentic life? What is my specific plan to keep moving closer to authenticity each day and/or week in these areas? What challenges to authenticity do I foresee and how will I tackle them?
- Who around me can I enlist for support and/or accountability? In what specific ways an they help me?
Being authentic is a challenge and it’s a continuous, life-long process because you have to be intentional about it and regularly work towards it. But it gets easier and more natural the more you pursue God and practice it. And imagine having the freedom, peace and joy that would come with living life authentically in the areas the Holy Spirit brought to mind above. Envision that what you say and do is merely a natural outpouring of a Christ centered, people loving, Galatians 5:13-26 heart.
Next Level Living! There’s a great video out there by Francis Chan called “The Biggest Lie of Your Life,” where he talks about authenticity lived out and the scripture in Revelation about the Church of Sardis. I’d encourage you to watch it and heed the convictions of the Holy Spirit. Allow the Truth to set you free!!!!