Fig leaves – desperate efforts

By Dave Henning / March 27, 2023

“We spend all our lives finding ways to cover up that deep, radical sense of inadequacy. . . .  Why all these things?  They are fig leaves. . . .  These are desperate efforts to deal with the sense of unacceptability — of unlovability — we all have.  But fig leaves don’t work. . . .  an actual garment of fig leaves . . . would be always falling apart.  And so it does.”- Timothy Keller

“Out, damned spot!  All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.”- Lady Macbeth

As Timothy Keller moves on in Chapter 8 of Forgive, he observes that nakedness — who we are ‘in the raw’ — reveals a deep sense that there’s something wrong, imperfect about us.  Therefore, we cannot bear to let others see us as we really are.  Imagine, Pastor Keller suggests, that the internet captured and put out every thought you’ve had for the last forty-eight hours.  None of us could bear it.

Hence, we resort to fig leaves – perfection, work a desperate need for approval.  Like Lady Macbeth, Pastor Keller stresses, we know something is foul.  As a result, we search for perfume.  Thus, Tim counsels, we must come to grip with the psychological – spiritual issues of fig leaves.  He writes:

“If we are not willing to hear the Bible’s teaching about where this sense of ‘nakedness’ comes from — and if we don’t recognize the fig leaves in our lives — we will be trapped.  We may spend all of our time on the internet, trying to cover ourselves, or, as some say, to ‘patch up righteousness (cf. Genesis 3:7 with Philippians 31:9-10), to find ways to not let anybody, including ourselves, know how weak we really are.”

Finally, in the next blog, Pastor Keller talks about three crucial resources Christianity provides that enable us to receive God’s forgiveness and extend it to others.  To do so the author draws on the Old Testament account of Joseph and his brothers in Egypt.

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you avoid using fig leaves for a cover?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Infinitely costly grace”

About the author

Dave Henning

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