I love a dessert that can double as a salad. The ones where a few tidbits of fruit are tucked away in fluffy mounds of whipped cream, sweetened condensed milk, and flavored Jell-O. Oh, the joy of going through the line at the church potluck and being able to proudly say “No potatoes or pasta for me. I’m going to just eat salad.” Proof positive we have a loving and gracious God.
Unfortunately, my conscience and my waist line both recognize the lie I tell myself, no matter how convincingly I say it. The sad truth is labeling that concoction of sugar and cholesterol as a salad just because we slide in a few bites of fruit—usually canned—and set in in the salad section of the buffet doesn’t make it any healthier. (Maybe it’s a dessert that identifies as a salad—but that’s a subject for another day.)
Too often this same mentality or deception is allowed to create havoc in our churches. We can’t be walking with the Lord and running with the devil at the same time. We can’t be a healthy, life-giving salad and double as an unhealthy, decadent dessert that satisfies the desire for immediate pleasure. It’s not healthy for us and certainly not for those to whom we are called to be a witness.
A popular saying on t-shirts and memes these days is “I’m a Christian. . . but I cuss a little.”
I haven’t seen these sayings on t-shirts, but I could…
“I’m a Christian. . . but I cheat on my taxes.”
“I’m a Christian. . . but I break the rules to get my kids into prestigious schools.”
“I’m a Christian. . . but I lie about my schedule to get out of having to do things people when I don’t want to.”
"I’m a dessert but I want you to see me as a salad."
Sometimes, it’s easy to spot the desserts trying to sneak onto the salad table. It’s not always easy to spot the posers in the pews beside us. Even considering it can bring on the fear of becoming judgmental.
We may know people who appear to be living impeccable lives. They study their bibles and have vast quantities of scripture memorized. They volunteer to help others (but nearly always in leadership roles only). And they feel compelled to share this wisdom they’ve found with everyone they can.
And they leave me feeling beat down, exhausted, unworthy, joyless. Much like the feeling I have when I indulge in the “dessert salad’ instead of the real thing.
Could it be they slid a little bitter envy, pride, or self-seeking into their purpose for sharing the message?
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.” James 3:13
Wait…wisdom is shown in meekness? Well, who wants to be known as being meek?
In a biblical context, though, meekness is not what we think it is. The root word for the Greek word for meekness means more than. Biblical meekness does not mean weakness. It means exercising God’s strength under His power.
Understood in this way, meekness is really a Holy mightiness.
God, in His infinite and perfect wisdom, gives us a standard for discerning true wisdom:
“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” James 3:17
Hmmm. . . sounds like the recipe for something that will nourish my spiritual soul instead of poisoning the body of Christ.
There is a saying that people don’t go to church for one of two reasons. One is because they don’t know a Christian, and two is because they do.
Are we a desserts—lots of scripture and good deeds to which we’ve added envy, pride, or self-seeking? Have we tried to hide the message—the Good News of the Gospel—in mounds of fluffy sweetness with promises of prosperity so the truth will be more palatable? If so, perhaps we are seeking our own satisfaction through acceptance, admiration, or popularity.
Or are we salads—sharing what Heavenly wisdom we have been given in meekness, full of mercy and good fruit?
Is our witness nourishing or noxious?
One strengthens the body of Christ and the other sickens.