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You Can’t Con God

January 30, 2023

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.” Isaiah 58: 8

The movie “Catch Me If You Can” (2002) is based on the autobiography of Frank Abagnale, who pretended to be an airline pilot, a medical doctor, and a lawyer. He conned scores of people and wrote millions of dollars worth of phony checks over several years before being caught.  He pretended to be someone he wasn’t.

The Scripture texts for this week[1] compare pretend faith to sincere faith.  Isaiah warns that sincere faith is more than fasting, going to church, donating money, and listening to Scripture readings.  It’s more than pretending to be “religious.” He describes the person who talks about how he is fasting and puts on a pious fasting face, all while he is seeking his own ambitions and pleasures, oppressing his workers, and picking fights: “Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and fight . . . fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high” (Isaiah 58: 3b-4). Others may be fooled, but not God. He will not listen to phony attempts to appear righteous. 

Paul continues this theme in the epistle lesson, when he tells us that God knows what is in the heart and soul of every person. You can’t con God:  “For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him” (1 Corinthians 2: 10-11).

Continuing his “Sermon on the Mount” teaching on a hillside near Capernaum,  Jesus taught that those who avoid God’s laws will be “called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them . . . will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5: 19).  The lesson is clear: Don’t just talk the talk.  Instead, walk the walk.  If you obey God’s law and approach him with humility, you will be blessed.

Sometimes people aren’t who they claim to be.  We get the wool pulled over our eyes from time to time. It’s disheartening to realize that the person that you thought you could depend on didn’t have your back, slandered you, or piled on to undermine you.  But we learn in Scripture, that if our faith is sincere, God has our backs: “Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard (Isaiah 58: 8).

God blesses those turn to him with a sincere desire to learn the truth. He blesses those who humble themselves before him. You can’t con God, so don’t try.  Instead, turn to him with an open heart, and he will be with you—guiding you, teaching you, helping you, healing you, and loving you.  God is with you and has your back.  You can count on it.

Prayer: “Almighty God, who is beyond the reach of our highest thought, and yet within the heart of the lowliest; come to us, we pray, in all the beauty of light, in all the tenderness of love, in all the liberty of truth. Mercifully help us to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with you.  Sanctify all our desires and purposes, and upon each of us let your blessings rest, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Prayer from South Africa 

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the Fifth Sunday After Epiphany are Psalm 112:1-9; Isaiah 58:3-9a; 1 Corinthians 2: 1-12; Matthew 5: 13-20.

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