Perhaps it's just another apt metaphor of our superficial times. Suddenly the empty suit has cross-dressed from the political world to the corporate board room into just about every other venue where influence is expected. The venerable Urban Dictionary (Kansas City: McMeel Publishing, 2005) has several entries for "empty suits" on their web site. It is "Someone puffed up with his own importance but really having little effect on the lives of others. It is often used as an insult to disparage others who really don’t deserve the title. The true empty suit, which conjures up the image of a business suit of clothing without a person, really doesn’t know what he or she is doing. He or she is ineffectual, perhaps a phony, and is about as relevant or helpful as a suit hanging on a rack". It's a great looking outfit covering a person of little substance. This bad boy may have morphed into the sacred chambers of the spiritual world as well. But, then, that's nothing new. Scripture warns about emptiness.
Job challenged his so-called friend Zophar with strong words about the emptiness of his gestures. He asked, "How then will you comfort me with empty nothings? There's nothing left of your answers but falsehood" (Job 21:34). Paul warned the Ephesians to "Let no one deceive you with empty words" (Ephesians 5:6), and the Colossians with "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty words..." (Colossians 2:8). He told Titus that "...there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers..." (Titus 1:10). Well, yes, the styles have changed with the times and the empty toga or tunic or cloak has yielded to the empty suit, or today, to the empty jeans. But, the image is clear. This emptiness is more than facade.
Jesus took it up a notch or two, this emptiness thing. As he debated the Pharisees about their obnoxious dietary laws, he made it clear that genuine faith erupts from the deep wells of the human heart, and not from the outer pretense of piety. He said, "You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good..." (Matthew 12: 34-35). He was dropping the hammer on the first century empty suits, the religious people who could do all the right stuff without first being the right stuff.
So, fast-forward two millennia, factor in world population spread and growth, velocity of information at near Planck time, media outlets at every crossroad, HD technology flashing computations at the speed of thought, in a no-rules, no holds barred culture, and suddenly, life moves beyond the shallowness of what the empty suit or skinny jeans offers. And, that's a problem as Christ's church seeks to influence the times. Our clever little off-the-cuff yuk yuk solutions won't cut it in a world come of age. The empty suit looks good. But, that's about it.
Scripture makes it very clear that God's way are not our ways. His way is immeasureably more than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). So, empty suit answers can't begin to deal with the essential realities of a world like this one. Only his word is eternal and only his word can provide truth that will guide us in such times. It may explain, to some degress, the clogged off and on ramps to the church these days. The world is screaming for substance, depth, solutions, reconciliation, relationships----ah yes---truth. The glass is empty and he's given us something to fill the void. In fact, Jesus made another promise right down this line---"Those who hunger and thirst for righeousness are blessed, for they will be filled" (Matthew 5:6).
Hey, we don't have to assume the roles as magistrates of the universe in calling out the empty suits. Which one of us has the credentials to measure anyone else by his standards. Certainly not me. But,, there is a plumbline, however, prophesied by Amos. It is Jesus Christ the Lord, himself who is the righteous one to accomplish this task.
Jesus said it would be apparent, these empty suits. He said, "...for the tree is known by its fruit" (Matthew 12:33).