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Saturday, September 20, 2014


Photo by: marin

In a Sky News interview, Barbara Streisand was asked if she thought there was too much pressure on women performers to conform to a certain size and shape. She answered, “Yes. I think there’s too much emphasis on superficiality.”1

Superficiality means “the quality or state of being superficial.”

Superficial means “concerned only with what is obvious or apparent; affecting only the outer part or surface of something; lying close to the surface.”2

We usually think of these words when talking about face, hair, clothing, body size and shape, etc. Superficial brings to mind celebrities like Dolly Parton (with her big-hair blond wig, copious make-up, and enhanced body) and recently deceased Joan Rivers (known for so many face-lifts that she joked, “When I die, they’ll donate my body to Tupperware.”) Magazines are filled with models that have been Photoshopped out of recognition. Their necks are lengthened, their bodies whittled away. Every hint of a blemish has been hidden. What you see, the superficial, isn’t even what you actually see!

But, superficiality isn’t only in the unreal expectations and presentations of our day. There’s also superficiality in the church.
  • The man gives a flowery testimony every Sunday of God’s goodness and leadership in his life, yet he parties, drinks in excess, and carouses in night clubs on Saturday nights—every Saturday night.
  • The woman looks like a saint in church. Everyone thinks she’s sweet, and good. Yet, she nags and badgers her husband, and she cannot say anything positive to anyone in her family.
  • The guy seems to be the nicest family man in the world, but he’s cheating on his wife.
  • The woman teaches Sunday school and posts Bible verses on social media, yet she has a hidden side: she’s addicted to script porn.
  • The man dresses up really sharp for church. No one looks better . . . but he has an online poker habit that's threatening everything he owns. Soon he’ll not be financially able to keep up his snappy dressing.3

In Jesus’ time, the technology was lacking, but the problems were the same. The Pharisees were a group of religious Jews that were especially concerned with outside appearances. They insisted on adding to the Mosaic Law all kinds of rites and ceremonies. They had to wash their hands publicly in a specified way. They had to measure just how far they walked on the Sabbath. Their religious traditions began to take precedence over God’s Word.

Jesus wasn’t pleased.

Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men (Mark 7:1-7).

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness (Matthew 23:25-27, similar in Luke 11:39).

Do you remember the story of the Pharisee and the publican? Two men went to the temple to pray. The Pharisee made a huge show of praying. (It’s interesting that the Bible points out that he prayed with himself, and not to God.) He tells God how great he is and all about his good works. He brags and brags. He even compares himself to others lower than he: extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

In contrast, the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

Jesus says, I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted (Story in Luke 18:10-14).

When God inspired the Apostle Paul with His Word, the Apostle instructed Timothy, This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

How superficial are we? What’s really inside our hearts?

Are we humble like the publican, acknowledging our own sins, or do we show a pretty form of godliness on the outside and have no real godliness inside?

God knows what’s inside. The LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7b).

Superficiality has no place in the Christian life.

Let’s be genuine. Let’s be real. Let’s be godly through and through.


1. Sky News interview, aired 9-16-2014.
2. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
3. Not exactly the cases of any people I know. These are typical, but only illustrations. 

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