Matthew 21:28-31 ESV “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ (29) And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. (30) And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. (31) Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.
This case study in evil focuses upon a man we will call Jerry. Or if you like, you can apply it to a woman you may have known, but my experience with this kind of evil masquerading as godliness has been with a “Jerry.” Here is a perfect, condensed description of this kind of counterfeit-
There are also those who make no waves, smile and seem to love everybody and yet really don’t. They don’t want power, just to be known as a nice guy. They garner sympathy because their spouse is so “demanding!”
Jerry is the second son in Jesus’ parable quoted above. Jerry talks. He talks Christianese. He grew up in a family and a church that spoke that language and he learned it well. His disguise is very convincing and wearing it has become very natural to him. He doesn’t even need to think about it – just as you do not have to think in advance how to mouth your words in your native language.
The heart of Jerry’s godly appearance is that he says, but he does not do. He professes, but he doesn’t obey. He is like the Jews of Jesus’ day, those scribes and Pharisees who put on such an outward show of godliness but inside they were unconverted and loved their sin.
Now, Jerry’s particular brand of hypocrisy is that his disguise emphasizes “being the nicest guy you ever met.” Big smile. Warm demeanor. Enthusiastic agreement with whatever you say. Jerry is quite popular with most people and thought to be a fine Christian, as were his parents in the church in which he grew up.
But if you were married to Jerry….well, you would suffer. Just as our commenter quoted above describes it, Jerry’s game is designed to make him look good and those who see through the disguise look like the culprit. That is what we might call “collateral damage” to Jerry’s false godliness, and he is quite willing to accept that damage as a price to be paid – by someone else – for his benefit. How, after all, can his wife be so unhappy, so complaining, when she is married to the nicest man? Poor Jerry. How he must suffer at her hands.
Let’s take a closer look at Jerry’s methodology. What he is a master of is what we might call reflection. Not the kind of serious thinking that we mean when we say someone is “reflecting” on a subject. No, Jerry’s reflection is the way he functions as a kind of human mirror. You talk to him about something and like a mirror he quickly processes your image and reflects right back to you words that warmly agree with you. In a real sense, when you are talking to Jerry, you are talking to yourself. He studies you, masterfully computes what you are telling him, and then in a way that makes you think you are hearing Jerry’s opinions in response, in reality you are just hearing him mouth back your own words and positions. My, what a nice guy is Jerry. So pleasant to talk to. So warm and caring.
You might say that Jerry really has no original thoughts. In fact, you could even say that Jerry has become a non-person in many ways like a reflection in a mirror is a non-person. That image looks so real. But it isn’t. It is an image of others craftily presented in the image of Jerry.
For all of Jerry’s “niceness,” Jerry is selfish, self-serving. Jerry feeds on praise from others. He uses people for his own selfish glory. And if you are married to a Jerry, you are going to be regularly thrown under the bus. Try to get help from someone, try to show them what Jerry is really up to, and you will be met with disbelief or even criticism for being such a “negative” person.
Jerry’s facade also hides those stinking, corrupt, rotten dead men’s bones Jesus told the Pharisees were inside of them. Lust, adulteries, jealousy, lying, and more.
I wonder what will go through Jerry’s mind on that Day when he stands before Christ naked, stripped of every part of his disguise, exposed as what he really is for all to see before a God who has seen him all along?