Your True Character is Finally Showing Itself!

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“Where are your charitable deeds now? Where are your virtuous acts? See! Your true character is finally showing itself” (Tobit 2:14). This comes at the end of a short story told by Tobit on himself. It is a powerful reminder to us of the ease with which we can slip into hypocrisy.

As the story goes, Tobit begins by telling us of his virtuous deeds during the festival of Pentecost. A fine dinner had been prepared for him and he sent his son out to bring back whatever poor person he found from among his kindred exiled there with him in Nineveh to share in this fine meal. His son returns telling him that one of their own had been murdered and left in the street. Tobit tells of how he “sprang to his feet” and left his dinner, went out and found the body and carried the dead man from the square and put him in one of the rooms of his own house until sundown, so that he could care for the body and bury him in accord with the Mosaic law. Then he washed himself and ate his meal in sorrow. Afterwards he wept and after sunset, he went out and dug a grave and buried the man. When he had buried the man, he went into his courtyard to sleep next to the courtyard wall.

While he was asleep, bird droppings fell into his eyes blinding him with cataracts. Nothing that was done could cure them and return his sight. He remained blind for four years. During that time, his wife, Anna, had to go to work to provide for the family. She worked for hire weaving cloth. She was paid for her work. It must have been exceptionally good work too, for we are told that when she finished a piece for a wealthy family, they not only paid her the price she was owed for her work, but gave her a goat as well. Here is where Tobit gives us the central message of this story telling on himself.

In his blindness, he asks his wife where she had gotten the goat. He immediately leaps to a wild conclusion that such a thing could come to her only by theft. She tells him the truth, that it was given to her as a bonus, over and above her wages. But he does not believe her and becomes very angry with her and tells her to take it back to the owners. That is when she “knocks the ball back into Tobit’s court,” teaching him a very important lesson. She retorts with our verse for today: “Where are you charitable deeds now? Where are your virtuous acts? Your true character is finally showing.” Oh, how that realization must have struck Tobit. And how true this message is for all of us. The fact is that we are capable of both moral character and failing in it. While we may do what is right, even suffer for it, moved by the better angels of our nature at times, at others, we make the mistake of quickly judging others, seeing a splinter in their eye, but not seeing the plank in our own. And how often is that judgment wrong? Here we are reminded of Jesus’ words: “Do not judge and you will not be judged” (Luke 6:37). How often have we caused another pain or harm doing just that? Tobit’s response after this chastisement is the correct response. “Then, sad at heart, I groaned and wept aloud. With sobs I began to pray” (Tobit 3:1). Let us all meditate on this wisdom.

Lord, Give us the wisdom to be true to our calling as your disciples in all things at all times. Strengthen us in faith. Help us to know what is really good and true and to honor it always with our lives. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.