A Good Lookin’ Bag of Bones: Keeping Up Appearances

Believe it or not, Americans lie about how often they go to church. According to a 2013 Huffington Post article [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-mcswain/why-nobody-wants-to-go-to_b_4086016.html ], although more than 40 percent of Americans claim to go to church weekly, less than 20 percent actually do. 

 Am I the only one that finds this funny? Christians lie about going to church in order to look good. Why would we do this?

Call it funny, call it sad, but call it me. No, I've never lied about going to church, but I have definitely misled others about myself.

My husband and I lived and worked overseas in a Christian ministry for 12 years and every month or so our supervisor would meet with us and question us closely about our spiritual well-being.

Parenting three boys in a country far from home, without a lot of modern conveniences, I sometimes felt like a robot on auto-pilot wading through life and ministry. But you can bet that I came up with something spiritual-sounding for those interviews. I might not be able to walk the walk, but I could sure talk the talk.

Instead of acknowledging my loneliness and need of support, I focused on looking and sounding fearless and functional.

Whenever I look good on the outside, while I am hurting or disobedient on the inside, I am cheating myself and others. Matthew 23:27-28 takes this kind of dishonesty seriously: “Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of the bones of the dead and of everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you look righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

My kids need something better than a mom filled with hypocrisy. My husband deserves something better than a wife full of dead people’s bones.

What if, instead of telling my supervisor some spiritual sounding lesson I had “learned” from the Bible, I had told him, “Hey I’m struggling. I feel like everyone but me has it together.” I trust and hope that if I had said that, I would have found empathy and encouragement. Admitting and dealing with sin and weakness frees us from the exhaustion of hiding them.

But something bigger teeters at the brink of ruin than just our own families when we try to hide sin and weakness. When Jesus spoke to the scribes and Pharisees, he addressed entire groups of people who had become hypocritical and stopped recognizing and admitting their own sin, like row after row of marble stones—cold and orderly, stunningly beautiful. But lifeless. Dead.

A few summers ago we meandered through Colorado. We captured some beautiful photos of the pine-covered hills in an area north of Denver where my sister has a house. But don’t look too closely at those pictures. Yes, the hills are covered with pine trees, but they are all dead. Tiny mountain pine beetles are spreading tree to tree in the mountains of the Western U.S. Hillside after hillside in Colorado and other states are covered with dead trees. If only someone had found and destroyed those first few pine beetles before they spread.

Looking at ourselves and dealing with our own sin is a big deal that goes beyond our families. If we fail to deal with our own sin and nurture an environment where others feel free to do the same, then as a group of ladies, or as a church, we risk looking good from a distance—as stunning as a hillside of dead pine trees—but lifeless.

The world desperately needs us alive.

Beth Barron and her husband have worked cross-culturally for 32 years, first in the Middle East and now in the U.S. She teaches English to refugees and uses her writing skills to advocate for them. Beth enjoys writing, biking, vegetable gardening and connecting heart to heart with other women. She is involved in her church's External Focus ministry. She and her husband have three adult children, two daughters-in-love and three grandsons. Beth graduated from Rice University in Houston and is committed to life-long learning.


  • Suzi Ciliberti

    Well said!

    Bravo! This is beautifully said and illustrated with amazingly graphic word pictures. Thanks for being bold, and honest and confronting us with truth. May He be our life and may the Holy Spirit fill us up to overflowing as we admit to HIm our weaknesses, cry out for help. I pray that God gives us the courage to be honest and let Him clean out our hearts lest they become seplechers filled with the bare bones of going through the motions of a lifeless existence. Thanks for another thought provoking post!