People will be lovers of themselves . . . having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. (2 Tim. 3:2, 5)

Our one-year-old recently started folding his hands at the dinner table—completely unprompted. While I secretly hoped that he was spiritually advanced, I knew his carefully folded fingers were nothing more than mimicry, a copy of what his three older brothers did before meals. In fact, a few more minutes was all it took for all signs of godliness to disappear. I offered him one bite of yogurt, and the screams of protest could be heard in the next state.

The heart always reveals itself. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul warns about people who only appear godly, who feign the results of heart change without having experienced the effects of grace. They seem holy here and there, but their righteousness is nothing more than a means to an end. Their showy display serves only one god: themselves. And we’re told to keep our distance.

This wisdom to stay away, however, must not give way to an “us” versus “them” mentality. Just as much as we need to be on guard against false spirituality in others, we must also learn to recognize it first internally. Because if we’re gut-level honest, we were all born “lovers of ourselves.” So therefore, we must ask: What’s motivating us to do good deeds? Do we want to be godly and reflect God’s glory—or simply look that way?

Don’t settle for imitations of godliness when God offers the real thing.

Sarah E. Westfall resides in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with her husband Ben and their four boys. Her elusive free time is spent reading, home remodeling, and writing.

© 2019 Wesleyan Publishing House. Reprinted from Light from the Word. Used by permission.