Mirror, Mirror

Proverb 27: 19

As in water a face reflects the face, so the heart of a person reflects the person.

So true, right? We all have faces we wear. There is the work face, the play face, the family face, etc. Different facets of our personality and character are revealed in different situations. Sometimes we wear masks as well, even hiding our true selves from ourselves. However, the true character of a person is revealed in the heart. The NIV Bible says, “As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” If the heart reflects the character of a person and one’s life reflects one’s heart then we can know the character of a person by the patterns of their life.

We are not supposed to judge people. That means that we don’t say for them whether their lives are right or wrong or determine their position in the Kingdom of God. We do make functional judgments for our own lives, though, and those determinations advise us on those things and people which affect our lives. So, Solomon does expect us to act wisely in whom we trust and rely upon. Who is the fool when we trust a person whose life doesn’t demonstrate good character?

When we enter this discussion, it is easy to think about people with large character flaws. I don’t think that is the real subject of conversation. The real discussion is about people who look cleaned up on the outside, seem to be okay and perhaps even profess to be Christians. People with big flaws are obvious. It is the person who talks a good game and whose mask is firmly attached that we must be mindful of. They say the right things and pretend, really well, but upon closer inspection, their lives reveal their true heart.

One of the factors that is a dead giveaway is how giving they are. Do they spend most of their money and resources on more stuff for themselves? Are they charitable to their own family? Do they support the church, charities? Second, do they do for others? Or, do you find they consistently want everything their way? Will they put themselves out, even a little, to make life more comfortable for someone else. Third, do they most often talk about themselves. Do they gossip? Do they miscolor the truth? Do they tell stories about an event in another person’s life and yet manage to have the story revolve around themselves? Do they exaggerate the importance of their role in an event? If a person constantly talks about and brags about their importance, they either have a humility problem, or more likely, a self-esteem issue. Eventually, if you don’t feed their ego enough, they will show their true character and betray you. Another question you can ask is, “Can they be taught?” A know it all is never going to be interested in anything you say, even if it is the truth. The truth has little value to them if it trumps their opinion.

People will fool you and to some degree, it is good to be the person who gets burned every once in a while because you gave your heart to a friend who later turned out not to be a person of character. We keep investing in people although we do not always reap a return. However, when people show you their lack of charity, their self-centeredness, and an inability to do even simple things for others, then you have your warning. These things show the real character of the person. These may not be the people you want to invest heavily in. People can change. Our God is the master of transformation, but a person must be submitted to Him and often this kind of person only plays the Christianity game instead of being yielded to the invested life in Christ.

Lastly, let us be the persons whose actions and words reflect a heart that is surrendered to love and to the care of others. Let’s check ourselves to be certain we are growing in truth and in charity. Let’s not judge others, but let’s be wise and prudent in our dealings with people. Each person must choose for herself what values are most important. While we must allow those people to be less that we believe them capable of, we do not have to accept mediocrity for ourselves. We can be the people who bring a smile to the Father’s face, if only for a moment, because I know we are not perfect yet either, but I pray we are growing in all aspects of His grace and revealing His character in our words and deeds.

Trees and Grass

Psalm 1: 3

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.

Psalm 37: 1 – 2

Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.

One of my neighbors cut down all of his trees because, he said, “They are killing my grass.” I thought, what a metaphor for life this is.

My neighbors are Christians, so I thought, “What does God say about trees and what does He say about grass?” The righteous person God compares to a tree. God takes that person and plants him where he will be nourished and have all the water he needs. Unlike grass, he will not wither but rather he will bear good fruit. In all he does, God causes him to prosper. But of course, he prospers because the Lord plants him beside the precious water.

What of the grass? God uses grass to represent evil people. They do not have strong roots going down into the rich soil. They are superficial and temporary. Trees are strong and steady yielding fruit year after year. The grass is gathered up and burned. Do you know how long it takes God to grow a tree? Years! Grass comes up quickly but has not root and so dies in the first trial by fire (See Mark 4).

There is a tree of life, while grass is associated with short, withering life. Trees are strong, grass is here today, gone tomorrow. Trees and grass are used in the Bible in contrast. We want to be God’s trees, not grass and in this way, I thought my neighbor’s value on grass over trees spoke, metaphorically, to our values compared with God’s.

I think that although we read the Bible and go to church we don’t always learn. Who among us has not read a book and failed to grasp the deeper meaning? Do we remember college English class? Still, the purpose in reading the Bible, reading devotionals and studying is not so that we can say we have read the Bible cover to cover. It is not so that we can fulfill a duty we feel towards God. Reading the Word is supposed to change us. We are supposed to begin to understand God’s values and absorb them into our bones.

This isn’t really about my neighbor’s trees, but you can see how it represents his value for the immediate versus long term gratification. The grass comes up quickly and is a pretty green. We can derive pleasure from it. However, six months of the year it is just brown and ugly. We will sacrifice the long-term pleasure of the tree for that quick hit of satisfaction. It is how we conduct our lives. How can a person take a chainsaw to something that took God twenty years to grow just so it doesn’t cast a shadow on the grass that sprouts quickly but just as quickly dies? That which God plants should cast a shadow and we should rest in that shadow because it symbolizes God’s outstretched arms shading us and keeping us from harm.

The Bible says God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55: 9) nor are our thoughts His thoughts but isn’t the point of Christianity that we should be becoming like Him? Isn’t that the point of transformation? 2 Corinthians 3: 18 reads, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” We learned in the book of Genesis that we were made in His image. Presumptively transformation is the process through which we reflect His image. If that is true, we should reflect His value system too.

The point is, we can sit in a church until Jesus comes back and never see this “from glory to glory” change. We can listen to a preacher and never let the Words penetrate our inner person and therefore, never come in synchronization with God’s thoughts, values and ways. We need to let the Word change us and that can only happen when we are serious about its transformative power and allow it to impact us.
Don’t be grass people. They wither and die. Be tree of life people firmly planted by the stream. Grow your roots deep in the rich loam of God’s Word. Be transformed through the renewal of your mind, by the renewal of your thinking. Think new thoughts. Think differently. Find out how the Father thinks and follow Him. Determine what He values and align your value system with His. This is not only the way of Christianity and faith. It is the way of love, success and peace. Shalom.