Putting on the Dog

Ephesians 4:22-24 

You were taught with regard to the former way of life to put off the old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

For centuries the aristocracy of Europe showed off their wealth in a number of pretentious ways. Not only did they live in mansions and travel in ornate coaches, but upper-class women spent lavish amounts of money to have small dogs bred. They were referred to as "lap dogs" and became as much a part of the fashion of the day as the expensive gowns worn by the elite. 

Over time, it became a trademark of the wealthy for a woman to have her portrait painted with a little dog nestled in her lap.

In America, the late 1800s brought times of financial prosperity for many people. Men became millionaires almost overnight through the development of the railroad, oil, and real estate.  Many of the wives of these businessmen desired to emulate their wealthy counterparts in Europe and not to be outdone, they acquired lap dogs of their own, spending large amounts of money in the process.  One of the most popular dogs bred and owned during this time was the poodle.

Cynical observers took notice of this practice and coined the phrase, "putting on the dog"—a phrase which still exists today, meaning ostentatious activity by someone who is attempting to show off his/her wealth or position in society. 

Unfortunately, this same principle is carried over into our churches every Sunday morning.  We  put on the dog more  often than we would like to admit . . . and in more ways than perhaps we even know. 

Consider these examples: faking a pious attitude in the service when our hearts are far from sincere; flaunting our clothing or accessories in an unseemly way; using spiritual vocabulary to make people think better of us than we deserve; making an exaggerated display of dropping the gift in the offering plate—the list goes on.

Pretentiousness takes many different forms and we all struggle with it in our lives.  

Frankly, it's a lot more comfortable to put on the dog than it is to expose who we really are. Transparency is extremely difficult, and sometimes it's just easier to hide behind a poodle!

But while everyone else might be fooled into thinking that we have it all fluffed up and under control, God sees past the makeup, the expensive suit, and the bleached smile. 

God sees our hearts and knows exactly who we are at any moment.  God sees past the gimmicks and the props . . . you can't hide from Him behind a poodle.

So, let's stop putting on the dog and get real.  Let's start by developing the habit of genuine, transparent conversation.  Let's admit to one another our failures and ask for prayer for specific needs and accountability between brothers and sisters in Christ.

When the body meets together, it should be without pretense and show; there should be honest expressions of both praise and pain—needs as well as niceties.

The truth is the Christian experience should be a breeding ground for godly partnerships and persistent prayer . . . not for posing with lap dogs for pious portraits.

The church is simply no place for putting on the dog.  Maybe we ought to hang a sign in the lobby that reminds us all: "No Poodles Allowed . . . Come Just as You Are."  

Prayer Point: Maybe it's been awhile since you looked in the mirror of God's Word to see what you really look like. Perhaps there are still poodles in your own portrait that you need to pray for God's help to remove. Will you pray for God to reveal them to you today?  Once He does, pray that He will give you courage to make the changes.

Extra refreshment: Galatians 3, where Paul rebukes a group of Christians for putting on the dog of legalism. 


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