November 21, 1995
Patrick Combs of San Francisco thought he would have some fun by depositing a fake junk mail cheque in his account. Much to his surprise, his bank credited his account with the face value of the cheque — $95,000.
Wow! Poor Patrick had no idea they that would take his prank seriously. He could go to jail for bank fraud. His bank also experienced a wake-up call — they realized they should have taken a closer look.
As this story illustrates, face value is not always true value. Pleasant sales agents are sometimes con-artists. An innocent countenance sometimes conceals a greedy heart. Behind a smile may lurk an ulterior motive.
The same goes for ideas. Some seem reasonable, at least up front and to needy people. For instance, a lonely woman becomes pregnant thinking a baby will fulfill her need for companionship. An insecure husband initiates a relationship with a younger woman thinking that will make him feel young again. A bored child nags her parents assuming that as much stuff as can be piled under a Christmas tree will challenge her mind and fill her time.
Of course these notions are mocked by the aftermath. The baby asks far more than it gives. The affair turns into a crushing guilt trip, ruining a conscience and a marriage. The toys soon become just as “boring” as life was before she unwrapped them.
We should not take religious teachers at face value either. Jesus looked closely at the most religious people of His day and called them “hypocrites” with lives like “tombs — full of dead men’s bones.” He saw through their prayers, daily worship at the temple and alms giving. On the outside, they performed flawlessly and looked pious. However, their hearts were not right toward God so their religion had no true value.
Becoming spiritual is not as it seems — the Scribes and Pharisees missed it because their motives were wrong. Ancient Israel was also condemned for doing religious duties without true devotion to God. God’s prophets preached strongly against their hypocrisy, but were persecuted for their efforts. Most people did not seem to notice or care. To them, their religious leaders seemed fine. Nevertheless, this was an example of Solomon’s Proverb, “There is a way that seems right to a man (or a woman), but in the end it leads to death.”
Today, many religions also seem right — do good deeds, give to the needy, pray now and then, worship in a designated place — but all rely on human performance and a humanly devised way. According to the New Testament, God has only one way. Jesus said it: “I am the WAY, the truth, and the light. No man comes to the Father but by me.”
For many, His way does not “seem right.” It is more logical to rely on “I am a good person” or “God loves people so I will be okay” or “I worship God in nature and that is good enough” or “all that matters is that I am sincere” or “the ways to God are many.”
The Bible says “all fall short — no one is “good” enough. It also says God loves us, yet He is also holy and will not tolerate sin. As for worship, Jesus said “God is Spirit and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” People can be sincere but sincerely wrong.
What matters is that we come the way He says we must. Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again... no man comes to the Father but by Me.”
If another way seems right, look a little closer. Face value is not always true value.