Can't Hide Behind a Mask

Oct 20th, 2017

“Masks”. When we hear that word I am sure a few visual images come to mind. Sports? Halloween? Theatre? A mask is an object normally worn on the face, typically for protection disguise, performance or entertainment.  Being a Theatre and Movie fan I have always enjoyed how masks have been used in productions to achieve different effects within the shows that have used them. In thinking about writing this devotion I thought of the old TV show and more recently the new move, “The Lone Ranger”.  He would show up and do a good deed, which always led to the question: “Who was that masked man?” In the distance, you would hear him say, “Hi ho, Silver . . . away!”

A mask can be used to hide the identity of a person and by its own features to establish another person, being or thing. This essential characteristic of hiding and revealing personalities or moods is common to all masks. As cultural objects they have been used throughout the world in all periods and have been as varied in appearance as in their use and symbolism.

Masks have been designed in innumerable varieties, from the simplest of crude “False Faces” held by a handle to complete head coverings with ingenious movable parts and hidden faces. Among the substances utilized are woods, metals, shells, fibers, ivory, clay, horn, stone, feathers, leather, furs, paper, cloth, and cornhusks. With few exceptions, the morphological elements of the mask are derived from natural forms.  Masks usually represent supernatural beings, ancestors, fanciful or imagined figures, and can also be portraits.

The practice of playing or pretending to be something or someone other then who we are, is and can be fun for short periods of time, like when doing a theatre production, but is not something we should do day to day.

Sometimes in life, each of us wear a mask, but not a physical mask. We pretend to be happy when we are sad, brave when we are scared or we pretend to be something we are not to impress friends or other people. Even in being Christians we wear these figurative masks at church. Yet Jesus made it very clear in Luke 12 that we can’t hide behind a religious mask.  Reading Luke Chapter 12 gives a clear picture of what Jesus had to say about masks.

Luke12: 1-3 “By this time the crowd, unwieldy and stepping on each other’s toes, numbered into the thousands. But Jesus’ primary concern was His disciples. He said to them, “Watch yourselves carefully so you don’t get contaminated with Pharisee yeast, Pharisee phoniness. You can’t keep your true self hidden forever; before long you’ll be exposed. You can’t hide behind a religious mask forever; sooner or later the mask will slip and your true face will be known. You can’t whisper one thing in private and preach the opposite in public; the day’s coming when those whispers will be repeated all over town. 4-5 “I’m speaking to you as dear friends. Don’t be bluffed into silence or insincerity by the threats of religious bullies. True, they can kill you, but then what can they do? There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands. 6-7 “What’s the price of two or three pet canaries? Some loose change, right? But God never overlooks a single one. And he pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries. 8-9 “Stand up for me among the people you meet and the Son of Man will stand up for you before all God’s angels. But if you pretend you don’t know me, do you think I’ll defend you before God’s angels? 10 “If you bad-mouth the Son of Man out of misunderstanding or ignorance that can be overlooked. But if you’re knowingly attacking God himself, taking aim at the Holy Spirit, that won’t be overlooked. 11-12 “When they drag you into their meeting places, or into police courts and before judges, don’t worry about defending yourselves—what you’ll say or how you’ll say it. The right words will be there. The Holy Spirit will give you the right words when the time comes.”

Jesus talks about not being able to hide behind a mask forever. That sooner or later the mask will slip and the true self is revealed. You can’t keep your true self hidden forever; before long you’ll be exposed. You can’t hide behind a religious mask forever; sooner or later the mask will slip and your true face will be known.  Jesus warned His followers about hiding behind a mask, or pretending to be someone we are really not. The word in another translation He chose to describe it was “hypocrisy,” which means “to hide behind a mask.” In Greek theatre of that day, actors would hold masks in front of their faces when they were playing a part. So hypocrisy is trying to be someone you’re really not. Jesus was saying, “Don’t hide behind a mask. Be real. Don’t be a hypocrite.”

Perhaps Jesus gave this warning at this time, because the disciples might have been tempted either to gain popularity by pleasing the crowds or to avoid trouble by pleasing the scribes and Pharisees.  It is human nature to want to be accepted. We want to fit in. So Jesus said, “Be careful. Don’t be a hypocrite.” How does hypocrisy spread in our lives? Notice that Jesus said, “Watch yourselves carefully so you don’t get contaminated with Pharisee yeast”.   Yeast is a rising agent. In the Bible, it is always symbolic of evil. It is something that works in secret with penetrating power, starting small and working its way through our lives. That is why we must carefully guard against it. Little things inevitably lead to big things. Often we will rationalize a sinful act, telling ourselves it’s just one time. But that one thing ultimately leads to other things.
An example of this is King David. I seriously doubt that when he looked lustfully at the beautiful Bathsheba, he thought he would engage in adultery, then murder, and ultimately bring scandal on his kingdom. But that is exactly what happened. A small thing became a big thing.

Hypocrisy is futile and foolish, and Jesus explained why: “For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops” (Luke 12:2–3).

Simply put, there are no secrets with God. Whatever you try to hide will surface one day.

The problem was that the Pharisees were more concerned with their reputation than with their character. They were more concerned with what people thought about them than what God knew about them.

Yet the Bible warns about fearing man instead of God: “The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25 NKJV). The remedy for hypocrisy is to forget about what people say and do, and instead fear God alone. Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom . . . ” . The Bible teaches that a day is coming when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ. It all will become known. But here’s the good news: If you have been living a righteous life, then that will be acknowledged too. Whatever you have been doing will ultimately break ground one day, and you will have cultivated a crop of it. You’ll reap what you sow.
If you are sowing to the flesh, you will reap corruption. But if you are sowing to the spirit, then you will reap life everlasting (Galatians 6:8).

Today, can the question be asked of you, “Who was that masked man?” or “Who was that masked woman?” Fear may cause us to back down on what we believe, especially in the presence of others who don’t hold the same views. It might cause us to put on a mask, so to speak.  But remember what Jesus said. Be real. And don’t be a hypocrite. For we can not hide behind our religious mask forever. If we are, it will fall off at some point.

Matthew R. Marshall