Ever had somebody look you square in the eyes and lie to you? Or tell you they were going to do something, and then never follow through? For 6 months I promised my wife I’d move that old grill from the back yard around to the front for pickup.
“I’ll do it”, I declared. But I didn’t.
I wasn’t intentionally deceiving her, it’s just that every time she asked me to do it, I was busy and so I’d put it off for another day. This went on for 6 months. Six months of saying one thing and doing nothing. Six months of – let’s call it what it really was – lying. Maybe I didn’t mean to lie, but I did.
Until last Saturday.
Enlisting my son’s help, we hauled that sad, old grill that served us well for 10 years up the steep grade around the side of the house and finally to the front sidewalk. A huge wave of relief covered me. A sense of accomplishment. And honesty – made even more satisfying when some scavenging, deseperate soul hauled it off the next day.
But more than the fact that my wife would now be “off my back”, what really inspired my inner end-zone dance was that my actions had finally caught up with my mouth. My life had matched my lips. I was reminded that good intentions are merely self-deceiving sentimentality when not followed by actions. I get that. Really, I do. People do that to me all the time. Words spoken in apparent sincerity not yet tested by the reality of life. Most famously,
“I’m sorry I missed church on Sunday but I promise I’ll be there next week” (unless of course something comes up, or I get a better offer to hang out with my friends)
Some people feel this obligation to tell the pastor what they think he wants – or needs – to hear. If every person who told me they would be “definitely be back next week” actually came, we would be looking for a new building. 🙂 Human nature being what it is.
But enough of broken promises to spouses and pastors. What about the things we say to God? You know, those vain declarations we make to Him. Often in times of trouble or great need, but more regularly just as a matter of maintaining a certain level of Christianity in our own minds.
- “I promise I’ll never (insert favorite reoccurring sin here) again”
- “I swear I’ll give my tithe to the church”
- “I’m going to start reading the Bible”
- “I vow to regularly pray with my wife”
- “I’m not going to date non-christians anymore”
- “I’m done with porn. That was the last time!”
- “I’m getting up early every day to pray”
And God shakes His head and says, “Uh huh. Right.”
Does God ever yawn?
You ever wonder sometimes how Jesus puts up with His children? Though we may have an inflated view of ourselves, but He sees us as we really are. In Matthew 15:8, Jesus quoted a bit of Isaiah 29:13,
“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of Me is made up only of rules taught by men.”
That usually prompts my Robert De Niro impression, “You talking to ME?”
And how would you know if you are simply honoring God with your lips while your heart is far from Him? What are the signs? What are the symptoms of “bilabial-hypocrisy”? How bout this: you talk about commitment, but you don’t do it. You tell God things you’re going to serve, but you fail to carry it out. You have a great (christian) stance, but no follow-through. You’re good at running your mouth, but suck at running your life. You may have great (even godly) intentions, but they die a quick death when exposed to the light of real life situations.
So when are you going to get serious about your faith? When is your life going to mirror your lips and inner desire to follow Christ? When are you going to stop telling God things you know in your heart you have no real intention to do? Or are you content to be a poser the rest of your life?
Maybe you’re trying too hard. Or attempting to live in your own strength? Or perhaps your expectations are too high? Maybe you’re going for the spiritual equivalent of a college degree but are perpetually frustrated because in reality you’re still in 8th grade of your Christian development. Maybe you’re not yet an authentic follower of Jesus and that’s the reason you can’t keep any of the love promises made to Him.
Maybe, after walking away from traditional church because of it’s corporate hypocrisy that you’re now discovering you’ve become just like those religious people you couldn’t stand in that church.
Only you can answer those questions for yourself – that is, if you’re honest enough to admit that it’s possible to even lie to yourself. Here’s an idea, given as advice to people like you and me by the wisest human who ever lived,
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. A dream comes when there are many cares, and many words mark the speech of a fool.
When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin.
And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Much dreaming and many words are meaningless.
Therefore fear God. (Eccles 5:1-7)
There’s a lot more about overcoming this lip-struggle than meets the eye.
Though I’m glad I finally moved that grill, I still fight the battle of broken promises made to my God. I’m slowly learning to line up my heart and actions with my words. Slowly.