But he hasn’t got anything on!” This is the cry of the child at the end of Hans Christian Anderson’s little tale The Emperor’s New Clothes. The vain emperor believed he was wearing the finest garments ever created, garments woven of the finest silk and the purest gold thread. He believed he was wearing clothing so beautiful that only the best and brightest in the land could see it. These garments could distinguish the great and mighty from the ignorant and troublesome, for only worst of the hoi polloi would be unable to marvel at their magnificence. The emperor had been bamboozled, but he would not admit his ignorance, he could not admit it, and instead forced himself to believe he was wearing clothes; his noblemen did the same, for to state the plain truth would be to admit unworthiness. The emperor paraded through the city, showing off his finery before the adoring masses until finally a child cried out, “But he hasn’t got anything on!”
“Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?” said its father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, “He hasn’t anything on. A child says he hasn’t anything on.”
“But he hasn’t got anything on!” the whole town cried out at last.
The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, “This procession has got to go on.” So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn’t there at all.
I have been thinking about this old tale and seeing how in many ways it is applicable to living as a Christian in this world. This is a world of naked emperors and their adoring, deluded fans.
It took a child to call it all a ruse. It took a child because only he had nothing to gain from playing along with the fiction that the emperor was wearing the finest clothing ever woven and the greater fiction that the emperor was wearing anything at all. Where his parents and the noblemen had so much to gain from playing along and so much to lose from speaking the truth, the child did not. He could speak freely and declare the truth without guile.
The Bible is that child. The Bible describes things as they really are, free from fear, free from sin. As the emperor marches, the Bible evaluates him, discerns him, describes him, and tells the truth about him. Christians are the crowd. We are easily beguiled so that as the crowds swarm and cheer, we begin to see the form of clothes, the color, the patterns. But then we look to the Bible. The Bible is like a pair of glasses that allow the Christian to see the world from God’s perspective. We look at the world through the Bible, and are forced to cry out with it, “But he hasn’t got anything on!”