For the purposes of an object lesson, the timing could not have been better. Fall was just creeping upon us, so enough sap had stopped running in the trees to begin drying the leaves out. Still, they had not yet begun to turn color, so the leaves were a deep, rich green.
Three of my boys had been caught in a lie. It wasn’t the first time, to be sure. However, I was getting a bit tired of them thinking they were going to outfox me every time they pulled a prank or hi-jink, then tried to cover it up.
Maybe three fig leaves would serve to demonstrate how long their lies lasted.
At first they were in awe at the size of the leaves. Then there was a bit of embarrassed dismay at how little could actually be covered. Even as young as these boys are (8-9 years), male pride has its precedence.
“How did Adam and Eve do it?”
“Maybe they were a lot smaller or the leaves were a lot tougher back then.”
“Not me! I’m not going to wear nothing but fig leaves!”
At this point the class thought the leaves were only being displayed for the sake of historical significance. No connection to the lie recently revealed was made.
“Let’s hang them on the wall,” I offered. “Well see how long clothes made of fig leaves would have lasted.”
Two hours, seventeen agonizing minutes. That’s how long it took for the last leaf to shrivel to a tight curl. The boys squirmed and wriggled in their seats all afternoon, eyes transfixed on those leaves. They didn’t need the clock. The passing curriculum told them how little time it took for the shriveling. One of the three even sat with his hands covering his crotch muttering, “Oh, man...”
Finally I dropped the reason for the leaves. “How well did Adam’s lie cover him?”
Crotch-coverer moaned, “I knew it… I could feel it coming as those leaves were curling. It has to do with that lie we told.”
All our lies are as fig leaves: They cover as much and last as long. When the lie is exposed, we are left naked and ashamed. Christ washes us in Baptism, then clothes us in Himself. He is our righteousness. In Christ, even the liar is never naked. For, to confess “I am a liar” is to admit what God says about us is true. The Ten Commandments do not speak rightly about our character according to thought, word, and deed. In fact, we are like Adam who could not say, “I am the sinner.” Yet, Jesus came for the sinners, not the righteous (Mat 9:13) in order to clothe them eternally.
I left the leaves hanging on the wall with a little sign, “How long can you hide?” Alongside them was a larger sign:
For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 2Co 5:1-3
Did the students “get” it? By now the leaves are rather dry and crumbled. The boys have asked to have them replaced. They want them hanging in the classroom as a reminder of that which does not last- and especially of what does.