Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.
There is no doubt that first impressions can last a long time. Whether you are interviewing for a job, showing up for a class, or moving into the neighborhood, first impressions are hard to live down.
Sociologists have studied the subject of first impressions. One study concluded that a first impression is solidified in the first four minutes of a conversation. They say that if those first four minutes are positive, your acquaintances will most likely view everything about you in a positive light—even things unknown to them. Your professional skills, your morals, and even your intelligence will be held by them in high regard. Why? Simply because you made a good first impression.
Sociologists have even given a name to this phenomenon—the "halo effect." If you can put your best foot forward and come out looking and sounding impressive, you will create a certain air about you that may last a long time, regardless of whether or not it is true.
This happens all the time in our modern culture; a culture where charisma matters more than character—where image is more important than integrity. We live in a world that is consumed with creating halos and keeping them shiny at every opportunity, while hiding the sordidness of our true identity.
This is certainly not a new development. During the days of Christ, the people who wore the brightest halos were the Pharisees. They arrived at the busiest street corners in the marketplace at exactly 9 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m., where they prayed on public display. People thought of them as men who loved God more than other people did; men whom God loved most; but Jesus Christ was not deceived by their chicanery. He, being God, looked beyond their smiles and priestly robes and saw what was in their heart. They were hypocrites to the core and Christ was not fooled by their good impressions.
His condemnation of the Pharisees was justified when they crucified Him. How ironic! They were the supposed "Godfearers" of the day, yet at their first chance, they put Christ to death for unmasking their true identity. Though they studied the Scriptures fervently, they did not heed the words of Solomon, who wrote in Proverbs 15:33, "The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom, and before honor comes humility."
Fear of man induces hypocrisy—fear of God produces humility.
Are you living a double life in order to gain the approval of others, or living a singular life that recognizes the need for God's grace and direction each day?
Are you shining your halo or cultivating your humility?
Halos make a good first impression on mankind . . . humility makes a lasting impression on God.
Prayer Point: David prayed in Psalm 139:23-24: "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way." Pray this same prayer, knowing that God sees your heart—and ask Him to move you from hypocrisy to humility.
Extra Refreshment: Read Acts 5—a story of a hypocritical couple who desired men's approval rather than God's, and received their just reward.
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