Did you hear about the woman who arrived at a Burlington Coat Factory claiming to have won the lottery? After pulling up in a stretch Hummer limousine, Linda Brown proceeded to announce she would pay for all purchases up to $500.00 each. Pandemonium was in the air. There were people right and left pulling merchandise off shelves and racks. Shoppers called family and friends to hurry down to Burlington Coat Factory and take advantage of this self-proclaimed millionaire’s generosity. The store was soon packed with customers all wanting to get in on this deal. You can read the Associated Press article here to learn more of the would-be exciting day. But, there was just one hitch. Linda Brown never won the lottery. In fact, not only did she not have the money to cover people’s purchases, she didn’t have any money at all. Once Brown’s real financial condition became known, all sorts of chaos and mayhem ensued. People began to riot while demanding their free stuff. The Burlington Coat Factory was trashed giving the appearance of the aftermath of a natural disaster.
As I contemplate this story, it’s an illustration of the damage caused by hypocrisy. Linda Brown who suffers from mental illness decided to “play a role.” She wasn’t really who she claimed to be. Everyone believed her to be the lottery winner she professed. Why wouldn’t they believer her? There was a Hummer stretch limousine parked outside. People were responding to her claims just as she’d hoped. When the truth was discovered, disappointment and anger fueled the actions of all those let down by the revelation. When reality hit, it wasn’t a pretty site. Why the hoax? Why the act?
Christians must be mindful about the roles we profess, the actions we portray, and the expectations that other’s might have regarding those claims. If we claim to be one thing, but in reality we’re something else, people will not only find out, but will be greatly disappointed. The aftermath of the disillusionment isn’t pretty. We really don’t need more hypocrisy in the church; we need more authenticity. We need real people living out the process of sanctification. We need genuine believers to demonstrate the reality of the Christians faith – people who live it and don’t act it.
Why do I say all this? Don’t try to play or act out a part in a self-created religious drama. While hypocrisy may impress a few for a moment, authenticity will influence the many for a lifetime.