My wife and I saw the newest Batman movie, The Dark Knight. I love Batman. I can relate to him. He’s human, and he does extraordinary things. He has a few secrets. (He also looks good in a cape. My wife says I would, too.) By day, he is Bruce Wayne; at night, he is Batman. Most intriguing is his dual identity. He pretends, covers up, poses. He must in order to protect himself. He is the Caped Crusader.

Do Christians live double lives? Do we all wear masks? David Kinnaman’s book Unchristian says Christians are perceived as saying “one thing but live entirely something different.”

What is a hypocrite? Webster defines hypocrite as “one who puts on a false appearance.” The Greek means, “to pretend, to play act, to wear a mask.” In Matthew 23, Jesus explains hypocrisy is revealed by our motives. Motives are not what I do but why I do things. Batman is not alone. We all wear masks at different times and places, don’t we?

How do I know if I’m wearing a mask?

Jesus says the main function of posing is the agenda to be recognized. “Everything they do is for people to see” (Matthew 23:5). “Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired” (Matthew 6:1). “Don’t make a performance out of your behavior, which might be good theatre, but the God who made you won’t applaud. When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself ” (Matthew 6:1-2, all italics mine).

It’s easy to become a caped crusader. Recently, I received a flyer for an event at which I have spoken many times. I knew I was not on the list of speakers this time. On the way home, I got sad and confessed to God my disappointment in not being one of the “chosen ones.” I heard in reply, “Why do you want to be there? Why is it so important to you?”

My response: “I just want to be recognized, I just want to…” The Spirit of God nailed me! Since that experience, I have had to ask myself three “motive meter” questions in order to battle the caped-crusader mentality.

Is My Public Life Congruent with My Private World (Matthew 6:1-4)?
Do I do things for the sake of performance? Do I pray frequently when I’m around others but little when I’m home alone? Do I seek the audible praise of people in place of God’s subtle praise?

Do I Do Things for Show or Seek Authenticity (Matthew 23:6-7)?
After King David’s fall, he came clean from wearing his mask of deception, lying and adultery. “Search my heart O God, and know my heart, test me…” (Psalms 139:23-24). The king was on the road to recovery, healing and authenticity.

Do I Focus More on Externals than Internals (Matthew 23:25-28)?
Matt Woodley’s book Holy Fools speaks about theatrical righteousness: “If people only knew how selfless I am, how much I pray and serve; if they were only aware of how much I know the Bible, at the very least they would pay attention, pat me on the back, encourage me and reward me.” Woodley says this leads to bondage and resentment. “When the applause doesn’t come, at best, we’re disappointed. At our worst, we demand it.”

So take the motive evaluation. Get alone with God (Matthew 6:6). Be quiet and listen for God’s voice. Be humble. Come clean. Have a checkup (2 Corinthians 13:5). We all are caped crusaders for Christ at some level; and if we will watch our motives, it might help us remove the masks.

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About The Author

Dr. David Olshine is the director and professor of Youth Ministry, Family and Culture at Columbia International University in Columbia, South Carolina. He's the author of Studies on the Go: James, 1-2 Peter and 1-3 John (Zondervan/Youth Specialties) and the founder of Youth Ministry Coaches.

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