Back in the day, a group named The Platters had a number one hit on the Billboard charts with a song titled “The Great Pretender”. It has since been covered by numerous other artists. The lyrics are:
Oh-oh, yes I'm the great pretender, pretending that I'm doing well. My need is such I pretend too much. I'm lonely but no one can tell.
Oh-oh, yes I'm the great pretender, adrift in a world of my own. I've played the game, but to my real shame, you've left me to grieve all alone. Too real is this feeling of make-believe, too real when I feel what my heart can't conceal.
Yes, I'm the great pretender, just laughin' and gay like a clown. I seem to be what I'm not, you see.
I'm wearing my heart like a crown, pretending that you're still around. Too real is this feeling of make-believe, too real when I feel what my heart can't conceal.
Yes, I'm the great pretender, just laughin' and gay like a clown. I seem to be what I'm not, you see. I'm wearing my heart like a crown, pretending that you're still around.
Focus on these revealing phrases: “My need is such I pretend too much.”; “Too real is this feeling of make-believe.”; “I seem to be what I’m not you see.”; “Oh-oh, yes, I’m the great pretender.”
This song clearly deals with pretense. No doubt, it reached number one, in large part, because so many people relate to its premise. Let’s face it - pretense is a pervasive part of life. It is on display all around us every single day.
I was reminded of this while out and about running a few errands this past week. As I was making my way down a city street, a car pulled out in front of me. It was a small four-door Japanese sedan originally designed for fuel economy. Only it was now covered in dents, Bondo, and rust. Moreover, attached to its trunk was an aftermarket spoiler which was entirely too big for the car.
In fact, it was so big that it appeared to be weighing the back end of the car down so far down that the oversized tail pipe that had been affixed underneath (which itself looked like something that belonged on a tractor trailer truck as a smokestack) was all but scraping the ground.
The fact that he shot out in front of me was of no consequence to the driver, as he floored his prized possession and eventually separated the distance between us. Apparently, neither was the trail of exhaust smoke he left behind him as, in vain, he sought to give the impression that he somehow belonged in a fast and furious movie!
In truth, the car he drove screamed pretense. I chuckled at his whole approach, which bespoke attempting to present himself and his prized possession as something which, sadly, neither he nor it clearly was!
The driver of that car was not alone. Material and social pretense dominate our culture. Were this not so, then social media would never have become the phenomenon that it now is. Far too many of us spend far too much of our time and resources only to put up a façade. As one pundit observed, far too many of us spend money we do not have on things we do not need to impress people we do not know. Ouch!
And yet, there is another form of pretense that is even more unsuitable than either the material or social versions we have perfected. That, of course, is spiritual pretense!
It is one thing to put on airs before our fellow man. It is quite another to put on airs before our Heavenly Father!
In His famed “Sermon on the Mount” in the New Testament Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5 through 7, Jesus called out the religious leaders of His day for their blatant spiritual pretense. He railed against their pretentious almsgiving, praying, and fasting, all of which was done in public in order to impress their fellow Israelites rather than their Heavenly Father.
His admonition to His followers in this regard was twofold, as found in Matthew chapter 6. In verse 1, He says: “Be careful not to perform your righteous acts before men to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven…”
Later on, in verse 18, He concludes His teaching on almsgiving, praying, and fasting by reminding His followers to make sure that whenever they undertake such things, their behavior “will not be obvious to men, but only to your Father, who is unseen.”
His concluding admonition is as direct as anything else He ever stated: “And your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Whatever else you make of it, Jesus is here calling those of us who follow Him to be completely unpretentious! The thrust of His teaching here is to remind us that, while we may be able to deceive others to some degree, in no way can we ever even begin to deceive Almighty God!
The Bible tells us that God sees all and knows all. It also tells us that one day, all will be made known. Given this, why should we spend our time trying to deceive Him and others?