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We are continuing a series of how people perceive the church and using Proverbs 6:16-19 (7 Deadly Sins) as a framework for our discussion.

16 There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17 haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19 a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

Abraham Lincoln is famous for saying, “No man has a good enough memory to make a successful liar.”  Lying has no place in our ministries but I am surprised at the temptation there is to do it.  Not so much the blatant lies but it is the lies of omission where we do not tell the full truth of something.  Like when I tell a student I am going to make it to one of there ball games knowing I do not have the time to do it and then when I do not show up telling them, “I was busy!”  No, you should have never committed in the first place knowing you couldn’t follow through.  

Something that was frowned upon in both the Old and New Testaments was the evil of lying.  When a person withholds truth or forges the truth there is a loss of trust between the two individuals.  Growing up, I had issues with lying.  I lied to make me look better in certain circumstances and to pad my ego.  To a certain extent, there has been the temptation to do this in ministry.  Example: people in the church know I have taken a lot of courses on Greek and Hebrew and sometimes they say things like, “Ask Robbie about the Greek of this particular word.”  Now there is the temptation for me to think that I know a lot and so I can probably give them an answer that sounds like I know a lot and if I use enough “scholarly” language I can even dupe people into thinking I am an expert.  

That’s lying.  

So if someone asks me about Greek or Hebrew I will respond by giving them what I think may be the right answer but I try to refer them to people smarter and more capable than I.  I am really just (to use Mike Yaconelli terminology) a klutz in the kingdom of God and a spiritual nincompoop.  The generation we seek to reach is tired of seeing Christian leaders amount to nothing more than liars.  I struggle often with my own hypocrisy knowing I am held accountable even more than those who do not teach.  I am not an expert at what I do and often I struggle with incompetence and spiritual stupidity.  I admit that I am not the greatest at what I do and there are plenty of men (and women) who are more qualified to do what I do.  But I admit that!  I am honest and transparent about my spiritual life which is something churches need to do starting with its leadership and letting this mentality trickle on down.  

Lies can and have killed churches.  How many church splits have started with a lie or a forgery of truth?  It’s a shame.  We need to be truth-tellers and truth-seekers.  “Did you hear about so and so Robbie?”  My response should be, “No, but I am going to go to so and so to see if what you say is the truth!”  

Buy the truth and do not sell it—
wisdom, instruction and insight as well.  (Prov. 23:23)

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We are continuing a series of how people perceive the church and using Proverbs 6:16-19 (7 Deadly Sins) as a framework for our discussion.

16 There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17 haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19 a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

The first phrase we will consider is “haughty eyes.”  What does that even mean?  The Hebrew word is rum (pronounced like “room”) and is used extensively in the Old Testament (used over 190 times!) and has a wide variety of meaning.  The word basically is used to denote literal height (something is high) and can be used metaphorically to exalt or negatively to be proud (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, p. 2132).  In our context it is used with the noun “eyes” so it is referring to something negative as in looking down on someone with a sense of arrogance and pride.  What the proverb writer is saying is that the Lord hates those who think they are better than people by looking down on them.

A New Testament example of this is the Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector in Luke 18:9-14.  The Pharisee looked down on the tax collector because he thought he was better than him.  “God I thank you that I am not like one of them.”  That is haughty eyes.  Dan Kimball in his book The Like Jesus but Not the Church shares Maya’s story:

Before my friend became a Christian, you could talk to him.  It was normal.  He became a Christian after he met a girl, and then through her got converted.  But after his conversion, you couldn’t talk to him anymore.  Every conversation was about condemning something about my lifestyle.  All he did was keep telling me things I was doing wrong.  I shouldn’t be smoking.  I shouldn’t be drinking.  He didn’t like the way I dressed or the music I listened to.  I was mad at the church for turning him into this kind of very negative person.  (p. 98).

Kimball didn’t say it (at least explicitly) but what she is experiencing is someone who has haughty eyes.  When we see someone who has tattoos, smells like cigarettes and beer and drops an F-bomb in conversation what is our typical response?  “This person is hopelessly lost!”   Our response should be one of compassion, mercy and tender care.  Instead of placing our judgment on them and their actions we should serve them which is a little like what Jesus would do (see John 13 and Phil. 2:5-11).

Instead of “haughty eyes” I advocate we put on “humble eyes.”  Haughty says “I am better than you” while humble says “I am a sinner like you.”  Haughty says, “You have to do this to come to church” while humble says, “we will take you as you come so we can learn about Christianity together.”  Haughty is a position of status while humility is an act of service.

I wonder if the perception people have on the church looks like we have haughty eyes.

Discussion Questions

  1. In what areas in our ministries do we need humility?
  2. Do you think it is fair what Maya said in Kimball’s book?  Why or why not?
  3. How have you had haughty eyes on people in the last few months?
  4. What would it look like for a church to really become agents of humility?
  5. What Scriptures speak to pride and humility?

I got an idea for a post when listening to a conversation that was, in essence, gossip.  I have been thinking a lot about the church lately which sounds a little bit strange considering thinking about the church kind of goes with my job description.  But, when I say thinking about the church I mean I have really been meditating, pondering, wrestling and struggling with the ideas of church.  I am reading a book that has slapped me across the face when it comes to thinking about what other people think about the church.  The book is The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons and his premise is that we just don’t listen to what people are saying about the church.

That has spun me in a thousand different directions as to why the church is not relevant in our current circumstance.

Gabe said, “Many churches are increasingly exhibiting less and less real influence in the communities where they’re located.  If they were gone tomorrow, one can’t help wondering if anyone would notice.”  (The Next Christians, p. 25).

Talk about a shot to the lower abdomen.  I want to begin a series of posts with the framework of, “what do you think the perception is of the church is from the unchurched?”  I was talking with a student in my office today and we discussed tomorrow’s See You At the Pole day.  While there are a lot of redemptive things about this day I poignantly asked her, “What do you think people’s perception is when they walk by and ya’ll are huddled up praying around a pole?”  She seemed to think that it would be negative, awkward and maybe even a little resistant.

So…I would like to offer a discourse on the seven deadly sins (Prov. 6:16-19) and use that as a framework for people’s perception of the church.  Sound cool?  After that I hope to give you a review of Lyons’ book.

See you tomorrow.