At five years old, a well dressed man, who is tall and lean and handsome, can seem to be really cool. That was my experience of my uncle. He didn’t visit us often, but when he did, I was impressed. He was an impressive character. On top of that he always drove the nicest and newest Cadillacs. The one I remember most, (secretly wish I had today) was the 1965 Cadillac Sedan DeVille. It was as beautiful as it was huge. My uncle had this expression that really seemed to fit him. “Only the best!”
What I didn’t know in the fall of 1965, when my uncle came with his family, and my aunt came too, to talk about Grandpa’s will, and who was going to get what (and by the way, Grandpa lived for another 18 months!) Late at night I would hear the adults arguing and fighting over grandpa’s money and grandpa’s stuff. As I listened, (breaking all of my parents rules, of course), I discovered something about my uncle’s character that saddened me. This hyper-cool uncle, who was well-dressed, and handsome, and rich and altogether impressive…this uncle, was in fact, a fraud. He was broke, he was dishonest, he was manipulative and he was mean-spirited. And though, I didn’t understand it at the time, it was complicated further by alcoholism. Everything he presented as “only the best!” was pretense; it was fraudulent; it was a lie.
This week, we hear Jesus’ words of warning about the pitfall of pretense and hypocrisy, particularly in our faith lives.