Year after year they show up at my door; pirates and princesses, vampires and witches ~ all seeking charity. They come with empty sacks and full hopes that the treasure they pursue will be found on the other side of the door. Like others in my neighborhood, I’ve already anticipated their knock and familiar plea and stand ready to greet them with joy.
They come in all shapes and sizes dressed as characters that appeal to their nature. An array of Halloween costumes display the sweet and innocent, the creative and humorous, the charming and clever, the dark and grotesque. While they are all treated equally, I have to confess that those in gruesome costumes make me want to hurry them along. I have an aversion to bloodied faces with rubber axes protruding from them and prefer the happier-themed little beggars.
Disguises are just plane fun when you’re a kid. But in truth, they aren’t exclusive to childhood or even Halloween. Life is filled with them ~ some humbly veil great blessing and some hide great evil. Distinguishing them has long been a problem for humanity because we’re easily influenced by outward appearances and rarely concerned with what lies inside. It’s a condition that plagues mankind, affecting the function and quality of our lives. Being vulnerable to deception, we’re capable of seeing good as evil and evil as good. And that has far more disturbing consequences than a rubber ax!
Matthew 7:15 gives us a clear picture of dangerous disguises. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” It’s a warning worth taking seriously because pretense can be convincing. Words can be eloquent, accomplishments impressive and motives carefully misrepresented. The goal of the false is to deceive for personal gain. Deceivers care nothing for truth and everything for power. So how do we discern wolves dressed in innocence?
We need to walk with the One who is true. We need to be still before Him and get into His Word where Truth is exemplified. God is willing to fill His people with power and love and a sound mind and therein we find discernment and wisdom. Jesus said “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgement.” (John 7:24) That is only possible when we humble ourselves before the Righteous One of God and seek to know Him.
The world has always admired appearances. The Savior never did. Having humbly laid aside the glory that was His in heaven, the King of kings clothed himself as a carpenter’s son. On the day He took off the apron, his three-year message of salvation revealed that the Son of God was with us. Though filled with truth and grace, the world refused to recognize Him. The image of humanity held a greater sway than the Truth of Divinity and most were unwilling to receive His life-giving words.
What about us? What image do we desire? If it is the applause of man, a disguise of pretense will be required to fit in. But if it is the approval of God, we must be covered with the righteousness of Christ. Galatians 3:27 says “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (NIV) That matters; for us and the generations that follow.
Long after the candy is gone and the costumes are outgrown, our choices will leave an impact on the little ones that trust us to distinguish between good and evil, virtue and vice, life and death. There are tricksters in this world and they prey on the defenseless. If we hope to protect the innocent and help the lost recognize the wolves among us, we must be people of Truth. Not the world’s definition of it, but God’s Truth. That is the greatest treasure we can place into an empty life.