"Religious heels"

The language student impressed the instructor with her academic diligence. But when the class went on a field trip for some cultural training, he didn't even recognize her. The reason? In class, she concealed 6-inch heels beneath her pants. In her comfortable walking boots, she didn't even reach 5 feet tall. "My heels are how I want to be," she laughed. "But my boots are how I really am."

Thankfully, physical stature is not how we really are. It may or may not be dangerous if we're masking what we perceive to be a physical flaw. But the consequences are forever fatal when we attempt to cover our spiritual flaws.

Jesus had harsh words for those masters of the cover-up, the religious leaders who obsessed about appearances but neglected their hearts. One day some of them asked Jesus why His disciples didn't wash their hands before eating, as their religious traditions dictated. Jesus answered with a question: "Why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?" (Matthew 15:3). Quoting Isaiah, Jesus said, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man- made ideas as commands from God" (vv.8-9).

That ancient prophet Isaiah understood how even "our righteous deeds . . . are nothing but filthy rags" (64:6). The problem in his day, as it is in ours, is that people who appear to follow God may actually be the furthest from Him. And some of the least religious-appearing may be closest to His heart. Only God, through the righteousness of His Son Jesus, can give us a clean heart that cuts infinitely deeper than all our appearances. Only when we admit that we need His help will we find it. , Tim Gustafson, Our Daily Journey

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