Shame and guilt color my memories of our conversation. He’d asked a question and I answered with untruth. I’d been trying to protect my reputation, and just like that, my integrity was gone.
I know both sides of deception. I’ve been the deceived. And, like the chief priests and teachers of the law, I’ve been the deceiver, working to convince others that I’m something I’m not.
Today’s reading finds Israel’s religious leaders fighting to preserve their own opinions at any cost. They’d become so comfortable with their own ways to uphold God’s Law that they forgot God. Rather than humbly serving Him, these men had given themselves to self-preservation for the sake of their pride. And deception always starts with pride. Pride had blinded these men from the Truth who was standing right in front of them. (See John 14:6.)
It isn’t just about paying taxes, although Jesus’ words here are on point. Deeper still is the principle that pride and deception go hand-in-hand. In fact, commandment number one, “Do not have other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3) lays the foundation for this one, “Do not give false testimony . . .” (Ex. 20: 15). In other words, don’t serve anything or anyone except the One True God — not even yourself. But this is exactly what the scribes and chief priests had done.
Maybe you can relate. You’re faced with an embarrassing situation at work, so you cover your tracks to protect your image. Suddenly you find yourself serving the god called self. Or your employer tries to pay you under the table “for the financial good of both parties” — no payroll taxes for him, no income taxes for you. It just takes a little deception to protect the financial security of your home, your family, your status. But that’s not serving God. It’s serving self. Or maybe yours isn’t so blatant. Maybe you’ve toyed with presenting less than the truth to your husband about the cost of that Coach purse you got last week. Who do you serve?
Have you let the Lord Almighty be the true Lord of your life? Do you trust Him to protect your image even when you have to admit embarrassing things or give up some money or risk your husband’s anger? Or are you serving yourself at the expense of your integrity?