Jesus turned first to his disciples and warned them, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees—beware of their hypocrisy. The time is coming when everything will be revealed; all that is secret will be made public.” - Luke 12:1-2
Character and reputation should never be confused. A man’s reputation is what people think he is. His character is what God knows he is. Living as we do in an image-conscious society, great emphasis is placed on how we appear in public. So business men are told how to dress for success and are encouraged to wear the right kind of power suits and ties. Politicians listen to focus groups and watch polls carefully to monitor any changes necessary in their “image.” Even teenagers, ever conscious of peer pressure and acceptance, insist on the right kind of gear in order to be the right kind of cool. Image, public persona, reputation—these are what really matter to our culture. What a man is in private, what he is in the eyes of God—his character—is not given as much attention. In fact, we are told repeatedly that private life is of no concern to anyone other than the individual. So public image is of concern to the masses, but private life is of concern only to one. Right? Wrong!
Jesus knew full well that public image can be a projection of what is palpably false. In fact, he had in front of him a clear example of this. So he warned, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees—beware of their hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1). The Pharisees were masters of image; they were practiced at projecting a piety that was not a reflection of inner reality. Jesus had a name for it: He called it hypocrisy. Their lives were an act, a charade, a travesty.
Jesus went on, “The time is coming when everything will be revealed; all that is secret will be made public” (12:2). The barrier between private and public will be breached. The gap between what people think we are and what God knows we are will be bridged. There will be no difference between private and public life—everything private will be made public. We will be known as fully as God knows us.
So how should a man respond? He should be more concerned about how he appears to God than about how he is viewed by people. What he is in private—his character—should take priority over how he appears in public—his reputation. Reputation is not insignificant, but it can be inaccurate. Good people are sometimes given a bad name, while rogues are often praised to the skies. But it will not be so in heaven. What the world needs is men of sound character who earn a solid reputation. Their character pleases God, and their reputation blesses humanity.
For Further Study: Luke 12:1-12
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