“How are you?”
A wise friend recently asked, “Is there any other question that leads us to lie more consistently on a daily basis?”
Hasn’t “How are you?” become the social norm for acknowledging someone’s presence, while dismissing their value?
Isn’t it really something like this that points out that our busy lives are focused on “things” and “responsibilities” and “stresses” – and that we are quite uninterested in the actual people around us:
Two coworkers approach each other in the hallway.
GUY 1: “I acknowledge you as a person!”
GUY 2: “I too so acknowledge you!”
They pass each other and go about their day.
But if we are Christians, we are not only lying with our empty question and our canned, lying response – but more importantly, aren’t we conditioning ourselves to become complacent towards others, to not value our moments with them because we really don’t value them? To not honor people even in the small things because we aren’t really honoring God when it comes to the small things.
I’m not saying that we are horrible, sinful people if we do ask someone a question without caring about their answer. No, I’m saying that we are horrible, sinful people. PERIOD.
Romans 3:10-12, 18 ESV
as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
So yes, you still see in me the shadow of the filthy sinner that falls short of righteousness – because you do not see the blood of the Lamb poured over me, justifying me through my faith in Jesus Christ, and redeeming me to a new life.
Romans 3:23-24 ESV
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
Because, it is our faith, not our works:
Romans 4:3-5 ESV
For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
But because we have faith, we will be changed, we will seek first the Kingdom of God, or lives will bear fruit, and His work will be done through us as part of the body of Christ, and His love will be manifest through us. And yes, you should see a different in me.
2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Matthew 6:33 ESV
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Colossians 3:1-2 ESV
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Matthew 7:17-20 ESV
So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits
Galatians 5:19-24 ESV
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
1 Corinthians 12:27 ESV
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
James 2:14-17 ESV
What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
1 Corinthians 13:13 ESV
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Matthew 5:13-16 ESV
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
So thinking about things like this, seeing the traps of the enemy, setting our thoughts on higher things – Yes, it helps us to recognize and maybe not step in quite so many traps. (Or maybe at least we will encounter some new traps and learn how Christ will overcome those in our lives as well.)
The point is, there are traps. We ought to open our eyes and look for them.
The reason that the “How are you? ” question comes under fire is because the outcome of the exchange depends on how genuine the two parties are (or are not). Words have power and conversation is an opportunity.
For two disingenuous, insincere people “How are you?” is nothing more than a social norm.
For two genuine people it is an opportunity for conversation and fellowship, maybe even an opportunity for mercy, love, forgiveness, encouragement or all kinds of wonderful fruit bearing to take place.
For a genuine asker and a insincere receiver, it can either be an outstretched hand ignored, a seed tossed by the wayside, or hope for one day that a conversation might take root.
For an insincere asker who receives a genuine response, it can be an awakening from the sleep of their social norms, an opportunity to see something different, and opportunity for light to shine forth into their darkness.
It all depends on our perspective. It can be an open door and an opportunity, or it can be a burden.
An opportunity is an opportunity afresh every day. Whether or not our record of success is great or is dismal, that doesn’t mean that an opportunity might not bear fruit this time. We never know when this day is someone’s one day.
Maybe that’s radical. Maybe that is asking too much. Maybe it sounds like work to genuinely reach out to folks only to get shot down over and over again. Maybe it causes people to look at us weird because we aren’t fitting into the social norms and we are standing up and rocking the boat.
But we have to stand up in the boat if we are ever going to step out onto the waves.
And don’t think that my words are aimed at anyone. It’s something that I think I need to think about and be aware of. Guarding my heart, examining my words, meaning what I say.
I have so much room for improvement, but the fact that we are thinking about things like this is a good sign, it tells us that we aren’t just sleeping through the distractions of this world but that we are being convicted and led to repentance even in those small things.
It humbles me when I realize how much I have to learn, but it encourages me that I have the one wise teacher guiding me along the path.
And you know, He showed us that He is really good at asking people questions throughout scripture. He was also really good at listening to their answers. And He always had a reason and a purpose for asking the questions that He asked. In every instance that He asked a question, it opened the door of opportunity for great things to happen.
So shouldn’t we ask our questions with a sense of purpose as well?
So, “How are you?”