In his youth, John Philip Sousa, the grandson of America’s great composer and conductor by the same name, received large sums of money as a guest bandleader. Soon, however, his conscience began to trouble him. He knew that he was asked to conduct because of his famous ancestor, not due to his own ability. In fact, the younger Sousa couldn’t read a note of music. So he decided to give up his lucrative charade and start earning a real living.

Have you ever pretended to be someone you’re not? Could you be masquerading as a devoted disciple of Jesus when in fact you’re a spiritual sham? That question is as shocking as an ice-cold shower, but I know from personal experience that self-deception is possible.

The sin that Jesus most often denounced was the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. They were playing the role of God-fearers but not living in holy and grateful obedience to His will. Jesus saw them as “blind guides” (Mt. 23:24) and said they cleansed “the outside of the cup” but inside were “full of extortion and self-indulgence” (v.25).

Are we just pretending? That question compels prayerful self-examination. It should motivate us to make the needed changes in our attitudes and in the way we live.