Appearing Righteous Outwardly

by | Jun 2, 1999 | Legalism, Righteousness

The story is told about a thief who was nabbed. The incident took place back in 1887 in a small neighborhood grocery store when a middle-aged gentleman, Emanuel Nenger, gave the cashier a $20 bill to pay for the turnip greens he was purchasing. When the cashier placed the bill in the cash drawer she noticed that some of the ink from the $20 came off on her hands which were wet from wrapping the turnip greens.

She’d known Mr. Nenger for years and was shocked. She thought, “Is this man giving me a counterfeit $20 bill?” But she dismissed the thought immediately and gave him his change. But $20 was a lot of money in those days so she notified the police who, after obtaining a search warrant, went to Emanuel Nenger’s home where they found in his attic the tools he was using to reproduce the counterfeit $20 notes. They found an artist’s easel, paint brushes, and paints which Nenger was using to meticulously paint the counterfeit money. He was a master artist.

The police also found three portraits that Nenger had painted – paintings that sold at public auction for a little over $16,000! The irony was that it took him almost as much time to paint a $20 note as it did to paint those portraits which sold for more than $5,000 each.

That story reminds me of folks who spend a lot of time and effort creating an “image” which they can present to people they come in contact with. They will go out of their way to make you think they are generous or kind or have some other godly quality. The irony is that it takes almost as much effort to create these “masks” as it does to develop the qualities themselves — which are infinitely more valuable!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matt. 23:27-28)

Take a moment to consider — are you more interesting in developing a godly heart, or in trying to make people *think* you have a godly heart?

Have a great day!

Alan Smith


Appearing Righteous Outwardly