I stepped up to the counter and handed the cashier my twenty-dollar bill. She glanced at me, lifted the bill up to the light, squinted and examined it, then laid it on the counter. She whipped out what looked like a felt tip marker and marked it. After a long second, she placed it in the cash register and gave me my change. It seemed simple enough. But it made me wonder.
What made her think my twenty might be fake? Did I look dishonest? I reminded myself that it was standard procedure. She had been taught to check every twenty because you never know who might pass a counterfeit. You can’t recognize honesty or dishonesty by a person’s looks.
Wouldn’t it be nice if it was just as easy to discern fake people as it is to recognize a fake twenty? What if we could hold people up to a light, squint and examine them for watermarks, or just swipe them with a pen and watch for discoloration?
Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple.
Sometimes the people we trust the most disappoint us. That was the case with Richard Nixon. After winning the presidency by a landslide vote, the Watergate investigations revealed a man far different than the public image. One of our great difficulties today is the widespread doubt that no politician can be trusted. They seem more intent on vilifying their opponents and promoting their own agenda than engaging in sincere dialogue.
We all know that no one is perfect. We are all human. We are all sinners and we all make mistakes. We are not looking for perfection. But we are desperate for authenticity. We are desperate for authenticity in parents, teachers, employers, employees, preachers and politicians.
Jesus ranked authenticity among the highest of virtues. His harshest words were leveled at those who pretended to be what they were not. Speaking to people of his day, Jesus said, “You're like manicured grave plots, grass clipped and the flowers bright, but six feet down it's all rotting bones and worm-eaten flesh. People look at you and think you're saints, but beneath the skin you're total frauds.” (Mt. 23:27-28, The Message). He warned his disciples, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (Luke 12:1 NASV).
What really gets scary and complicated is to examine ourselves. Am I authentic? Is there any hypocrisy in me? Are we being open, honest and authentic with one another? Someday, of course, there will be a test. God will hold each of us up to the light. He will not be concerned about the flaws and imperfections. He will examine us for authenticity. Are we people of authentic faith living authentic lives?