“Mary took . . . an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. . . But Judas Iscariot objected, ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?’ He said this because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what as put into it.” – John 12:3-6
Reading this passage reminds me of why I hate Christian clichés.
Judas, in his desire to line his pockets with the disciple’s money, says the religiously acceptable thing when he talks about giving the money to the poor. However, in order to hide his true motives, Judas mouths a frequently used yet thoughtless statement that sounds good to the listening ear but betrays the truth.
To the casual observer, Judas’ statement appears to be closest to the mission of Jesus, but in reality, his motive is furthest from the heart of Christ. That, to me, is the definition of a Christian cliché.
I’m confessing to you that I’m bothered by how many “religious” statements appear full of compassion and dedication, but are actually self-serving and far from the loving kindness of God. After sharing my crankiness over Christian clichés with some Facebook friends, I’ve compiled a short list of our least favorite Christian sayings. Feel free to add your own, but I warn you; just thinking about some of these can put you in a bad mood.
- “Bless her heart.” This is the quick follow-up after sharing some bit of gossip about “her.”
- “I’ll pray for you.” It sounds so religious and spiritual, but we can all count the number of times we’ve said that and failed to follow up on it. When someone asks my wife to pray for them, she stops what she’s doing, looks them in the eye, and prays for their need. I like that, because the person prayed for knows they’ve been prayed for, knows what has been said about them, and knows they’ve been in the presence of someone who means what they say.
- “He needs Jesus.” This is code for, “That guy’s a real jerk.”
- “I am blessed.” This is too often the response when someone asks, “How are you?” It doesn’t really tell you anything, does it? Is this person saying they’re eternally grateful for the life, death and resurrection of their Savior, or are they saying they woke up on the right side of the bed and are in a good mood? It’s hard to tell. If you’re blessed, tell me why. If you’re in pain, tell me. Give me a chance to rejoice with you or mourn with you, depending on the situation. Don’t brush me off with a quaint cliché that doesn’t say anything.
- “God told me.” The quasi-spiritual person uses this statement when they want to do something even though they know God is not really behind it. I heard this more than once in Bible College when a guy would say to a girl, “God told me we were supposed to date.” Then about a month later it was, “God told me we were supposed to break up.”
- “Let me know if I can do anything to help.” Then when you call for help, they aren’t there. Can you imagine God saying, “Let me know if I can do anything to help,” and when you pray, find He’s out of the office until Monday?
I’m sure you can come up with a few of your own, but I hope you’ll abstain from using them. I want my friends to know I’m a man of integrity – someone who means what I say and says what I mean. I don’t want to just “talk” like a Christ follower (Judas was good at doing that); I desire to live like Christ. And I pray (really, I’m praying right now) that you do too.
I agree with most of these. But the “I’ll pray for you” I try to stop what I’m doing and say a prayer for the situation immediately. But only because of my past failures of good intentions but short comings. So when I hear those words coming out of my mouth, (or see them typed from the tips of my fingers) I immediately go in to prayer mode.
And “Let me know if I can help” comes with sincerity. Sometimes they never ask, sometimes they ask for things I can’t help with, but if I’m able, I do.
Good word. Good challenge.