Monday Morning Devotion – 1/22/07 (Stupider than You Really Are)

(13) The Lord says, “Because these people approach me with their mouths, and honor me with their lips, yet their heart {mind} is far from me, and their awe of me comes from human command learned by rote, (14) I will do more amazing things with these people, amazing and stunning. The wisdom of the wise and the understanding of the intelligent shall be hidden. — Isaiah 29:13-14

C. S. Lewis comments in one of his novels (The Magician’s Nephew) that the problem with trying to be stupider than you are is that you very often succeed. It’s easy for us to accomplish this in real life. For example, if you know what you should do, but don’t want to do it, you may convince yourself that you really have no idea what to do. You were intelligent enough to know the right course of action to take, yet you didn’t. Finally you may convince yourself that you had no option.

When we start to deceive other people, we can be caught in the same trap. For example, if you present a different picture of yourself at church than who you really are, you may get asked to live up to it. Do you try to present yourself as a person who regularly reads the Bible? Someone may expect you to know something about it. They might invite you to lead a Sunday School class. Do you claim to be a praying person? Someone may want you to pray for them. Do you claim to be generous? Someone may ask you to live up to your reputation. At work, if you portray yourself as an expert with some piece of equipment, you may get asked to solve a problem with that equipment.

But worse than that is the likelihood that you’ll eventually deceive yourself. If you can convince everyone else that you’re someone you’re not, and they treat you as such, you may start looking at yourself in the same way. Then you’re stuck, because you will no longer recognize your lack.

This is another example of how similar spiritual and physical things can be. In our verse today, God is talking to the Israelites about worship. He gets lip service from them, they talk a good talk, but their heart—what’s inside—is not at the same place as their mouth. They go through rituals, but they are just that—rituals, empty of any further meaning. The traditional translation of this verse is “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men,” but the issue is not as much the source. God wasn’t happy with rituals that were just a repetitive human habit, even if he commanded them in the first place.

YHWH said to Samuel, “Don’t look at his appearance, nor at how tall he is, because I have rejected him. For God doesn’t see the way people see. People see the outward appearance, but YHWH sees all the way to the heart. — 1 Samuel 16:6

True integrity will mean that when God looks all the way into our hearts he will see the same thing that we show on the outside. Actions of worship will reflect a worshiping heart. Acts of love will reflect a loving heart. Rituals will reflect how we think. Our words will be what we really mean deep inside.

Will you put your heart, your lips, and your hands in the same place today, or will you be stupider than you really are?

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