take the shadow for the substance

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take the shadow for the substance

dated To accept something false, deceitful, shallow, or insubstantial in place of something true, meaningful, or valuable. (Said especially in religious lectures or sermons about shunning or being led away from faith or the dictates of the church.) In today's modern, materialistic world, it is all too easy to take the shadow for the substance.
See also: shadow, substance, take