Italy is such a beautiful country and the Italian people are so interesting. During my week in the northern part of Italy I learned something unique about the Italian culture called: “La bella figura”. Literally it reads, “the beautiful figure”. I discovered that this concept is an essential philosophy that shapes the lives of many Italians, yet is a difficult concept for outsiders to comprehend. Bella figura has to do with presentation…how one looks, how one handles oneself, how one makes the best possible impression in all things. Bella figura has to do with visual beauty, clothing, good manners, and even making a good presentation with hosting a meal. The idea of making a good show seems to be hardwired into the Italian people.
There is nothing wrong in attempting to make an external good presentation. However those of us who a citizens of Christ’s Kingdom need to go beyond a good show. We are called to be beautiful on the inside. The harshest criticism from our Lord was leveled at the Pharisees. They always made a good show on the outside. They appeared to everyone as being very righteous and having it all together. Jesus addressed these religious leaders in Matt. 23:27,28: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness”. We need to work on having a pure and clean heart on the inside. The scriptures teach us that while man looks on the outward appearance the Lord looks at the heart.
The descendants of the Pharisees are still among us. They are the externalists who always major on appearing righteous to everyone around them. They are only concerned about making a good show while neglecting the weightier matters of the law like love, purity, compassion, kindness, and encouragement. “Bella figura”…making a good show might be part of the Italian culture. But having a transformed pure heart is essential to the Jesus culture.
Pastor Stultz has been writing this weekly devotional for many years. In 2009, he published a compilation of devotionals in book form, also called Moments of Meditation