I know people say that perception is everything, but I want you to consider something for a few minutes. Imagine a well-dressed man walking into a church building. Everybody knows this man, and most would consider him to be a pretty faithful guy. During Bible class, he participates in the discussion and contributes to the class. During worship, he sings with each song, takes of the Lord’s Supper, gives, pays attention during the sermon, and when called upon can offer up one of the most beautiful prayers. After worship is over, he stands around and visits for a few minutes and everybody seems to like him a lot. The community, in general, has great respect for this man and based on outward appearances this man seems to be a true follower of Christ. But there is a problem. While this man knows how to dress the part and how to say the right words, his private life does not represent Christ in the slightest. His prayer life is nonexistent. It’s been so long since he has read his Bible that layers of dust have formed over the pages. His motives for worship and Christian service are lacking. He goes to worship because he knows he is supposed to, and he doesn’t want people to think bad of him. He serves out of obligation instead of from a true and sincere heart. Sin has crept into his life, and, instead of dealing with it, he just covers it up, puts on his suit, and heads to worship each week like nothing is wrong. Now we ask ourselves the question. Is perception everything?
Now I know what we mean when we say a phrase like this. We recognize that people are always watching what we are doing, and sometimes people do not see the full picture and understand the entire situation. So being perceived in a good way is very helpful. It is always important to keep a good reputation with those in the Church, as well as those in our communities. Take for instance the qualifications for elders and deacons in 1 Timothy 3:1-13. It is important for these men to be men of good reputation. But just because it is important for us to keep a good reputation does not give us the right to be fake. Just because people perceive us to be faithful and righteous does not automatically put us into a right relationship with God.
In Matthew 6, people were being described that were living hypocritical lives. They were doing charitable deeds, praying, and fasting so that people would see their deeds, hear their words, and give them all the glory. To the people all around they may have appeared to be righteous and faithful, but in reality, they were like “whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” (Matthew 23:27)
When we wake up on Sunday morning, that should not be the first time in seven days that we have thought about God, His Word, and His Church. It should not be the only time that we think about our behavior and our attitude. We should be Christians every day that we live. Our attitude, our behavior, and our purpose as Christians should be at the front of our minds and should be represented in everything that we do, no matter if somebody is watching or not. This way when people see us living our Christian lives, it will be a life that is genuine, and God will receive the glory (Matthew 5:16).