Mere Display

…our Sunday morning attendance, clean language and public charity may be displayed, but only when such stems from true worship, a clean mind and real compassion is the display then also the fruit of who we truly are.

Romans 2:28 For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, and true circumcision is not something visible in the flesh. [29] On the contrary, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart — by the Spirit, not the letter. That man’s praise is not from men but from God.

When you crave Mexican food, what do you look for?  Usually, a sign with some Spanish word under which is “Mexican Restaurant.” Right? Imagine pulling in, and as you walk under the awning to the front door, the festive music from inside grows louder. You pass a manikin with a sombrero and a poncho holding a sign that says, “Hola!” You step inside and before the hostess greets you, you notice a chalkboard advertising the special of the day, “Burrito Magnifico Lunch Special $7.95.”  The hostess escorts your party to a booth and as you take in the décor of warm southwest pastels, your waiter arrives asking for a drink order.  “Water for now. Could we get some chips and salsa?” Your waiter very plainly responds, “We don’t serve chips and salsa.” He then hands you menus and promises to return with your drinks shortly. No chips and salsa? What kind of a Mexican restaurant is this? You’ve got to shrug this off and the colorful menu with enticing pictures of Mexican entrees helps. Your waiter returns and you eagerly place your order for fajitas. “I’m sorry, sir. We don’t have those.”  Disappointed, you go for your second choice, chile rellenos.  Again, the waiter lets you down.  Disdained, you huff, “Just give me the lunch special.”

“The Burrito Magnifico?” the waiter confirms. Before you can nod, he follows, “I’m sorry. We don’t have that either.” Exasperated, you close your menu. “Well, what do you have?”

“Sir, we have a kitchen full of Italians.  They make a mean cannoli.”

Although I’m sure this fictional story has never unfolded, I believe a 1st century version of it may have resonated with the apostle Paul as he penned Romans 2; specifically, that what we display outwardly is not always what we are inwardly. “A person is not a Jew who is one outwardly… a person is a Jew who is one inwardly.” The sign said Mexican Restaurant. The music sang, “Mexican Restaurant.” The décor and the menu lead you to believe nothing but “Mexican Restaurant.” But inwardly, it was an Italian Restaurant! Regardless of what was displayed outwardly, the kitchen had no ability to produce Mexican food. What is it when that which is produced is different from what is displayed? A breach of integrity. Let me put it another way: Integrity is to display no more than what’s truly produced.

Consider it for a moment. If you purchase roofing shingles advertised to last 20 years but are only manufactured to last 5, there’s an inconsistency between what’s displayed and what’s produced. It’s an integrity issue. If you take a job with a company that has a core value of “Family First” but requires you to be at the office every weekend, you’ll grow discouraged by the inconsistency between the value that was displayed and the work culture that’s actually produced.

There are endless examples of mismatches between what is seen (the outward display) and what is actually produced. Jesus is clear that what is produced from the tree identifies the tree. Even if the fig tree that Jesus noted to bear no fruit was decorated with apple ornaments, it doesn’t change it from a fig tree. It’s still to be cursed.

Paul makes it clear to the Jews in Rome that the outward display of circumcision and other practices in adherence with the law are not the real fruit of righteousness.  Similarly, our Sunday morning attendance, clean language and public charity may be displayed, but only when such stems from true worship, a clean mind and real compassion is the display then also the fruit of who we truly are.


One thought on “Mere Display

  1. A good question might be this: What is one’s motivation for doing good? Is it for attention? Those I-feel-good-about-myself feelings? Do we connect doing good with salvation? Hopefully, the motivation is to serve our Lord and our community.

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