I stepped up to the counter and handed the cashier my $20 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 $20 bill might be fake? Did I look dishonest? I reminded myself it was standard procedure. She had been taught to check every $20 bill because you never know who might pass a counterfeit. You can’t recognize honesty or dishonesty by a person’s looks, with or without a mask.

Wouldn’t it be nice if it was just as easy to discern fake people as it is to recognize a fake $20? 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 and honesty. We are desperate for authentic 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.” (Matthew 23:27-28, The Message).

He warned his disciples, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (Luke 12:1).

What truly 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 examine us for authenticity.

Are we people of authentic faith living honest and authentic lives?

Bill Tinsley reflects on current events and life experience from a faith perspective. Visit www.tinsleycenter.com. Email bill@tinsleycenter.com.

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(1) comment

Bailey Jones

I've just begun a new book, Humankind: A Hopeful History, by Rutger Bregman. The premise of the book is that people are mostly kind, decent and honest, even though we tend to believe the opposite. The author uses scientific studies of human behavior to prove his point. It is an enlightening read. One of the things he shows is how believing that people are dishonest leads us to be less authentic and honest ourselves, and the opposite as well.

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