‘Keeping up appearances’ is an expression we use when we are trying to impress others. We want people to see us favorably, hiding the things about us that we don’t want others to see. We keep up appearances.
Words like ‘fake’, ‘phony’, and ‘hypocrite’ seem to be suitable labels when we see the masks of others…until we take a moment to look in the mirror. Other adjectives seem more appropriate when we look at ourselves.
We innocently keep up appearances in small, barely detectable ways. We tell people we are doing fine when we are not and we fake a smile when we’re having a bad day.
APPEARANCES CAN BE DECEIVING
At times we can tell when someone is really faking it. On the other hand, some people are really good at it. Like actors who are expected to present their assigned character and not themselves, we can be impressed with such skill.
Appearances can be deceiving; that’s why we try to keep them up. Show our best side. Make a good first impression.
THRESHOLDS OF APPEARANCES
Somewhere along the line, however, is a threshold that warns us that we have gone from innocent fudging to outright lying and deliberate deceit.
The incident of Ananias and Saphira in Acts 5:1-11 is anchored in the closing verses of Acts 4:32-37. They wanted to appear benevolent and generous towards the poor like Barnabas. They anticipated the same recognition and celebration that would emerge once they laid their ‘gift’ at the apostles’ feet. This became the motivation for their gift, leading them to lie about it.
The chilling effect that their sudden deaths had upon the first church in Jerusalem (see Acts 5:13) is not lost on us today. Becoming a follower of Christ is not the same as joining the good-old-boys-club down the street. This is serious stuff!
Gifts freely given out of the pure heart described by Jesus in the sermon on the mount (see Matthew 5:8) open the door to experiencing the generosity of God in new and wonderful ways. Conversely, gifts given with hidden agendas or deceitful intentions are deadly, underlining the central importance of the heart.