Proverbs 15:8 The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked,
but the prayer of the upright pleases him.
This is another expression of a truth that is stated countless times throughout the Bible, and that is that God cares about what is on the inside of a person far more than He cares about exteriors. It’s no use trying to hide things from Him, as is pointed out immediately after this: “Death and Destruction lie open before the Lord– how much more the hearts of men!” (Proverbs 15:11) We are easily distracted by externals, but God doesn’t have that problem. This brings up a number of incidents in Jesus’ ministry when He spoke strongly against hypocrisy. The thing is, hypocrisy never works! Even if it manages to fool some people, it never fools God and it does no one any benefit. There’s a rather “cutesy” poem that is quoted around Christmastime depicting a poor child trying to decide what to give the baby Jesus. It ends with the line, “What will I give Him? I’ll give Him my heart.” The point of that poem is actually the same as that of this verse. Grand gestures aren’t necessarily bad, but God is most interested in what is behind what we do. A huge gift to a church building fund isn’t a bad thing in itself, but motives for such things can certainly be mixed. However, a simple prayer from a heart that is humbly, genuinely seeking God is beautiful to Him indeed.
I have as much trouble with this issue as anyone. I intend to seek God honestly and in purity, but things get complicated. I too care about the opinions of people, and how they see me. I was a Drama major in college, so I know how to put on an act! At the same time, I know that none of that holds any water before the Lord. It’s certainly not that I am to quit doing good works, but rather that I am to ask the Holy Spirit to act as my “alarm system,” notifying me when my heart gets out of the lane. (My wife’s car has that feature as part of the collision avoidance system.) I’m not to be anxious, much less paranoid about it, as I have seen some people be, but I am to maintain humility before the Lord, knowing that my motives are unreliable. I am very aware that God isn’t through with me, and He’s still grinding down rough areas and strengthening weak spots. I take great comfort in Paul’s encouraging words to the Philippians: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for Your truly amazing grace that covers my countless sins and hypocrisies. Keep me moving closer to You, less distracted by all the things the enemy throws at me, so that I may be more and more pleasing to You, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!