True to God

“To thine own self be true.” – Polonius, from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act 1 Scene 3

For one of my summer college jobs, I had a manager who was a high school English teacher. On my final day working there after a few summers, he handed me a note before I left. When I opened it, it simply had the quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet “To thine own self be true.”

At the time, I thought that was a decent quote and didn’t think much more about it. Until now.

I do recall the play that the quote was from. I think Shakespeare was easier for me to understand because I was used to reading a King James Bible. Now the character who said the line “To thine own self be true.” was who Hamlet hoped would be his father-in-law someday. He wanted to marry Ophelia, Polonius’ daughter. I won’t go into the bad vibes between Hamlet and Ophelia’s brother, Polonius’ son, but Polonius himself was a conniving helicopter parent to the extreme. At the end of the play, Polonius is dead, Ophelia’s mental state is severely and permanently affected by her father’s death, and Hamlet does have it out with Ophelia’s brother. Now, the character of busy-body Polonius is also attributed with saying famous lines such as “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” and paraphrases of his lines are famous such as “The clothes make the man.” and “There is method to his madness.” and “Old friends make the best friends.” Again, most of those lines sound like good advice or in the least are thought provoking. Some have paraphrased “To thine own self be true.” to mean, “Be true to yourself.” or just simply “Be yourself.”

This reminds me of a joke: “If you go to the grocery store and stand in front of the lunch meat section too long, you start to get ticked off at turkeys. You see turkey ham, turkey pastrami, turkey bologna. Somebody needs to tell the turkeys, ‘Man, just be yourself.’”

But, do we really need to “be ourselves,” and is being true to ourselves really the ultimate goal?

Right before I sat down to type this, I was set to talk about the beginning of David’s ministry in 1 Samuel, looking at David’s relationship with God. He seemed to be so Spirit-led most of his life. What I mean by that is this: when David had an issue such as a trash-talking Philistine giant (What in the world is anyone trying to prove trash-talking God anyway?) or the current anointed king of the most powerful kingdom on earth trying to hunt him down and kill him, etc. He would tell God about it, give it to God, God would give him the victory – sometimes an impossible victory, and David would credit God with the glory for the result. Unlike the king before David, the Spirit of God certainly did not leave him.

Instead, I was indoors walking by my front door toward my laptop as they came up the front porch stairs. I wondered if I could ignore their knock, but my open front door with just the screen door remaining in place, the open garage door…. It kind of looked like someone was home. I walked toward the front door to crack it open. Before I did that, there were two thoughts. One, “Do not take anything from them.” The other, “Listen.” I remembered the lady. Out of the corner of my eye, another lady I had seen before still in the car. There was a man in front of me this time as well. She remembered my first name. After saying she talked to me last spring and that I haven’t been home since, she asked me, “Do you think man or God will end all the suffering in the world? I simply said “God.” after pausing to make room for something witty right away. But, I should listen. Nothing came except the simple response of “God.” I should have said “Jesus.” She turned to a Scripture in Psalms explaining that God will restore and comfort the poor and the suffering. I asked her for her Bible and went to Revelation 19. She went to Revelation 5. I went to Revelation 22. The porch top impromptu Bible study ended after I turned down some literature and an appointment but described Living Water Church and our Wed evening Bible study on Genesis.

Read Revelation 22.

Our God is jealous for us (Exodus 20). That’s what the first few commandments are about. He doesn’t want us to put man-made things or ideas ahead of Him. First of all, everything is His. I easily forget that. When we look through the lens of His jealousy for us being a righteous jealousy because everything, including our hearts and actions, are His, we begin to understand holiness. He wants us to be set apart for Him from everything that isn’t Him. Therefore, worship and our priorities are His. Anything that we give priority to prior to God is an idol. Idols are sometimes easily thought of as figurines of Buddha or portraits of Mary that are meditated in front of. Idols become more difficult to categorize as idols when it’s the love of money and materialism or our family or whoever we want to be our significant other, as most poetry and songs have been written about. Spiritual leaders such as overseers, pastors, husbands, and mothers need to be wary of the idols of waging control over the people within their congregation and those within their families by using doctrine that is apart from salvation and holiness. Doctrine can become an idol if we put ceremony, tradition, and man-made extensions of God’s Word ahead of God and His work of evangelism and discipleship. That’s why we need to ask ourselves regularly if we are the Pharisees of our day.

Read Deuteronomy 4: 1-25.

Now Deuteronomy 12 starting at verse 29.

Now Proverbs 30: 5-6.

Finally, Psalm 119: 160.

How are we true to God? Priority: Him. No one else before Him. We are not to add or take away from His words and commands. This all assuming that we have made the decision to follow Him.

Let’s pray: LORD Jesus, we constantly fail to put you first. But with the help of your Holy Spirit, we can do anything. Remind us this week of how we can put you first in a much more meaningful way. Amen.