6 Ways to Look Godly While Not Growing in your Faith in 2020

Carl Laferton | January 6th 2020

I am a master at appearing more godly than I actually am. 

As we head into 2020, here are six ways in which I know I’ll struggle not to allow a gap to emerge between how I look and how I live. (I’ve already written a couple of these lists, in 2013 and 2014. Since then, I’ve found six more ways to look godly without having to go to the effort of actually being godly. So now I’m up to 18…)

1. Give away your margin (and mention it in passing)

Most of us have a little more (or a lot more) than we need to cover the “essentials” (ie having the same lifestyle as our neighbours). Give some of that surplus away, and you won’t really notice it. God loves a sacrificial, cheerful giver, and getting halfway there isn’t bad—. And if you can drop your giving into conversations in passing, so that it sounds like you didn’t mean to, then you can gain extra looking-godly points without sounding like you’re boasting.

2. Turn up to every third church monthly prayer meeting

That’s enough to make it seem like you’re a regular, without having to go to the effort of coming along when you have a bit of a cold/it’s dark/you’re tired/a better offer comes up. The one-in-three principle holds for Bible study group too. For Sundays, you need to up it to one in two. Alternatively, turn up to everything, and let that replace any kind of personal time in the Bible or in prayer. (This is handy if you’re a pastor, elder, etc.)

3. Get a really busy job

If you can find a well-paid, long-hours job, very few people will call you out for not being able to turn up/serve etc if you say “Work is just crazy busy right now.” In fact, you’ll sound conscientious, committed and diligent. You can go for years without anyone saying anything like “If your work requires this much of you, should you find a different job?” or “Do you need to take a pay cut so that you are able to teach your kids the Bible each day?”, “Why are you going for that promotion just because everyone else at work expects you to?” or “Mate, it sounds like your work has become an idol. How will you kill it?”

4. Focus on the speck in your left eye so you can ignore the plank in your right

We all have small, respectable-sounding sins that we don’t mind others hearing about very much; and we all have more serious, unpalatable sins that we’re glad no one knows about. The latter sins tend to be the ones that we don’t really want to deal with. So talk earnestly about your fight with a couple of sins in the former category. You’ll sound like someone who takes sin seriously, and you can carry on cosying up to the sins you don’t want to take actual steps to kill.

5. Talk radical, decide easy

Talk about giving away the money you’d saved for the foreign family trip. Mention that you’re considering inviting neighbours/friends/colleagues to do an evangelistic course with you. Ask for prayer as you think about going on a short-term mission trip. Raise the possibility that you might forego the home improvements in order to support a missionary instead. Talk about being disciplined with Bible-reading and prayer. Then don’t do any of them.

6. Tell people you’ll pray for them (and then don’t)

Simple, easy and requires only the time it takes to say “I’ll pray for you.” Score extra points by writing it down in front of the person you’re talking with. 

(Hat tip to Jann, who suggested this one in a comment on 2014’s “Six Ways…” blog. And now I look godly for giving credit where it’s due, while not having to think of a sixth entry for myself…)

Carl Laferton

Carl is Editorial Director at The Good Book Company and is a member of Grace Church Worcester Park, London. He is the best-selling author of The Garden, the Curtain and the Cross and God's Big Promises Bible Storybook, and also serves as series editor of the God's Word for You series. Before joining TGBC, he worked as a journalist and then as a teacher, and pastored a congregation in Hull. Carl is married to Lizzie, and they have two children. He studied history at Oxford University.