Masks off, Saul!
Recently, Singapore started a new phase in our co-existence with Covid-19, where wearing of masks has now become optional in most indoor settings. Mask-wearing had been mandatory since the Covid pandemic hit, and has become a way of life for the past 2 years or so. We know the rationale behind mask-wearing: to keep the Covid virus within the mask, and stop it from spreading to others. Of course, wearing masks can be uncomfortable, and even makes breathing difficult. Hence, the new relaxation of measures has brought relief to many.
Nevertheless, it is evident that many are still keeping the masks on. Likely, some are still wary of passing the virus around. However, there is another reason for others to keep the mask on: to keep a disguise on the face. The mask does a good job in disguising what’s underneath, whether it be an untrimmed beard, or a facial blemish, or even an awkward facial expression. Sometimes, disguising a bit of ourselves can help to portray to others a rosier image of ourselves.
Is it good for Christians to go around with a mask of disguise? In the Bible, we can read about a man called Saul, who wore masks of disguise. He did not wear a literal mask; however, he often tried to disguise various aspects of himself… ultimately, it did not end well for him. Let us examine what happened to Saul and his mask-wearing antics.
1. Masking his talents
Saul had the honour of being chosen as Israel’s first king (1 Samuel 11:14). He had all the right attributes to be Israel’s king, being described as “a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he” (1 Samuel 9:2). However, his initial appointment seemed to have been met by some reluctance on his part. When first approached by the prophet Samuel, he displayed skepticism, due to his supposed lowly heritage (1 Samuel 9:20-21). Later, when it was time for his presentation, instead of coming forward, he was found hiding (1 Samuel 10:21-22). Some may attribute Saul’s behaviour to modesty; or perhaps he was a talented man who was masking his talents.
In our Christian journey, we have been called by God to serve Him (Romans 6:22). God has given everyone different abilities and talents, whereby we may contribute towards His kingdom (Romans 12:6-8). Of course, everyone is blessed with differing talents; however, we are all expected to produce our best with whatever we have! (Matthew 25:14-23). The worst thing we could do is to downplay our talents, and hide it, just as the one-talent man hid his talent in the ground (Matthew 25:24-30). At the end of the day, all of us have to answer to God, as to whether we had been responsible stewards of His gifts. Let us not mask our talents, but use them for God’s glory!
2. Masking his helplessness
Saul may have started his reign over Israel on a good note, but soon, his courage was put to the test. The Philistine army gathered together against Israel, numbering like the sand on the seashore (1 Samuel 13:5). Many of the Israelites lost their courage and fled in different directions (1 Samuel 13:6-7). In preparation for the battle, Saul was waiting for Samuel to offer a burnt offering towards God, to gain God’s blessing for the fight. However, Samuel was late. Hence, Saul went ahead and offered the burnt offering himself; in this way, he sinned against God, since only the priests were allowed to offer burnt offerings (1 Samuel 13:8-9). Why did Saul commit such an error? He tried to explain to Samuel that he was “forced” to do so; or in other words, he had no choice (1 Samuel 13:10-12). Likely, he did so because he did not want to appear helpless before the people. He tried to mask his feeling of helplessness by performing something that he was not allowed to do. This event in Saul’s life has been considered as the tipping point of Saul’s ultimate downfall.
In our Christian journey, we will face trials and difficulties. We may feel helpless at times. However, instead of seeking assistance, we may be tempted to mask our helplessness, just like Saul. We may hide our helplessness due to the fear of appearing weak, or embarrassment, or even pride. However, without the right assistance, we may end up making things worse for ourselves, just as it did for Saul. When faced with difficult situations, let us not be afraid to look for help. We can request for divine help through prayer (Matthew 7:7-11). We can seek divine counsel through God’s word (Psalm 119:105). Also, we can turn to our Christian family, God’s divine household, who can offer us practical and physical help in our time of need (1 Corinthians 12:24-26). Let us not mask our helplessness, but open ourselves up for divine help and support!
3. Masking his sin
The climax of Saul’s downfall happened in the battle against the Amalakites (1 Samuel 15:1-26). God had tasked Saul with the utter destruction of Amalek. However, Saul did not complete His mission, but left some livestock alive. When questioned by Samuel, Saul tried to mask his sin by pretending that no wrong had been done (1 Samuel 15:13-15). He tried to defend his actions by saying that the captured livestock was meant for God (1 Samuel 15:20-21). However, Saul’s sin could not be hidden. Because of his error, God rejected Saul from bring king over Israel (1 Samuel 15:26).
In our Christian journey, we may be tempted by sin. Satan is always prowling around, seeking to catch us, and tempt us to break God’s law (1 Peter 5:8). Thankfully, when Christians fall into sin, we have a recourse: when we confess our sins to God, He can cleanse us from all our unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). However, if we fail to confess our sins, we will be setting ourselves up for big trouble! Just like Saul, we may try to mask our sin, and put on a show of righteousness. We may be able to fool men, but we cannot fool God; our omniscient God sees the heart, and there is nothing that we can hide from Him! (1 Chronicles 28:9). God will judge us righteously, and punish every evil work (Ecclesiastes 12:14). Hence, let us not mask our sins, but confess them, so that we can receive forgiveness.
The Christian life is not a life of disguise and deceit. Saul tried to put on masks of disguise, but it ultimately led to his downfall. Let us not mask up like Saul. Let us not mask our talents, but use them for God. Let us not mask our helplessness, but seek divine help. Let us not mask our sins, but confess them to God. May our lives reflect the values of our Christian faith: with openness, honesty, and integrity.