Better Stinky Socks Than A Stinky Soul
…quipped a sweet girl in our youth group. “Danielle, that’s great! True wisdom! Is it okay to quote you on this?” We had just returned from a heap of fun, perspiration-producing outdoor activities that had left an odorous legacy on our clothes and bodies. While the first couple of girls headed into the two available showers, I took off my shoes and peeled off my socks, jokingly dangling them in the air with a “peeeuuu!” expression. “Wheew, these stink!” To which Danielle immediately responded with that pearl of insight into the human condition, and gave me permission to quote her.
Let’s chew on that for a while (the truth, not the socks!). Since the time of Adam and Eve, ever since sin entered the world, people have been making over their image and trying to cover up the “stench” inside, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. At first, they used fig leaves and tried to hide from God. (Gen. 3:9)
Later, Jesus expressed His opinion about people who care more about their image than their character:
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Mat. 23:27-28)
If you think stinky socks are an unpleasant thought, imagine a pile of decaying bones, garbage, and other gross elements! How could the religious teachers and Pharisees harbor all that in their hearts and still appear so good and lovely on the outside?
How does anyone do that? Like applying expensive perfume to cover reeking bodies, people find many ways to seemingly emanate sweetness to the world. Such as: Following religious rules and regulations to seem “holy”; Doing good deeds and giving to charities to become known for kindness and generosity; Hiring good “spin doctors” and image consultants; Other ways only they know about(!) But they can’t keep it up forever. Sooner or later the “perfume” wears off, and people “smell a rat”.
Ananias and Sapphira discovered this the hard way. A wealthy, “upright”, couple in the early church, they saw another guy, Barnabas, receiving a lot of credit and admiration for his unlimited generosity. Barnabas was the “real deal”—the good that people saw was the good they got. In fact, his name “Bar-nabas” was actually a nickname bestowed on him, meaning “Son of Encouragement”, reflecting his character. Ananias and Sapphira, on the other hand, just wanted to look kind and generous, in order to get the same “kudos” from the apostles and the whole church. So they conspired to sell their property, give half of it to the church, keep the other half for themselves, and pretend they gave it all. But they didn’t reckon on not only God seeing through them, but the apostles as well! Peter called each of them on their deception, informed them they’d both die for it, and immediately they each dropped dead. (Acts 5:1-11)
The death penalty for hypocrisy?! The Lord took (and takes) this whole stinky-soul bit seriously. There’s nothing wrong with keeping half of what we earn. That’s actually quite generous. Just don’t claim we gave everything! (the IRS doesn’t like that either).
Can you imagine if the Lord executed people immediately for image management (i.e. hypocrisy) today? Undertakers would be working day and night!
A neighbor told us about a slumlord in our city whose “apartment buildings were so horrible, the rats were bigger than the people!” Then, he told us, this guy and his wife donated a large sum of money to open a cancer research center in their name. Nothing wrong with the donation. That’s great. But everyone who knows this couple knows the truth about the stench inside.
Thankfully we can eradicate the stench from our souls in three simple steps: 1)Admit it’s there. Don’t cover it up from even ourselves or ignore it, hoping it will go away by itself. It won’t. Stuffing our junk affects our souls the same as stuffing our stinky clothes in a drawer-- the odor becomes more horrendous; 2)Ask God for help to clean it out. These steps are simple but not easy. Trying to do it on our own is like rubbing our stinky clothes together, hoping they get clean; 3)Be proactive, not passive—do whatever the Lord tells us to do to change our hearts, with the power He gives us to do it.
I recommend putting our stinky socks in the laundry before they become “weapons of mass destruction” in our homes. Even more, let’s bring our stinky souls to the Cleaner before they destroy our lives and relationships!