A number of years ago, after we moved into our house, we had a problem with bees. They were getting into the eaves through the vent. We had to work on getting the bees out of the eaves. To do that, one of the things we had to do was take out the vent. What we found when we did that was that the wood in the eaves had become rotten. We needed to clear out the bees and then replace a lot of the wood in that area of the house. We hadn’t realized how rotten the wood was because it did have a nice coat of paint. It was funny how a simple coat of paint was able to hide the rotten wood.
When it comes to people, it’s not much different. Anyone who’s showered and shaved and is wearing a clean set of clothes can look pretty respectable. If you give that person the right words to say, they can sound like they should be in the upper echelons of society. Think of Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady.” Ultimately, her appearance crumbled when the real Eliza showed up. Jesus dealt with Pharisees who looked and acted perfect on the outside. They wore the right clothes, performed the right rituals, and said the right things. Jesus called the “white-washed sepulchers.” Then, He really described them. “In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” (Matthew 23:29)
I think this is why Jesus and the Pharisees clashed so much. This verse comes in the middle of a rant from Jesus about the Pharisees. He unloads on them because they are so concerned with outward appearances and not at all concerned about other people. Their mutual admiration society applauded other Pharisees, but turned their nose up at the common people. They claimed an exclusive franchise on knowing God among the chosen people of God and did everything they could to make others think they were the chosen among God’s chosen. Jesus called them out on their despicable attitude noting that they were beautiful on the outside, but were rotten and corrupt in their spirit. The shock to the everyday people must have been the same that people get when they see the beauty of the Taj Mahal only to discover that it’s really a mausoleum.
This is the challenge that we face each and every day. Are we going to allow God to work inside of us to get rid of the hypocrisy and wickedness on the inside, or are we going to work on outward appearances so that we can look good to others? For a long time, those outward appearances were very important to me: I was to wear the right clothes, act the right way, and say the right things. I wasn’t worried so much about whether I had really changed because Christ was working in me as I was that people thought that. I had to learn that even more important than wearing the right clothes was having the right heart before God; that even more important than acting just right was to act in love; and that even more important than saying the right things was being the healing voice of God to those who were down. When God chose David to be king, he was the last person anyone would have expected based on outward appearances. God looked at the heart, though, and David became the greatest king of ancient Israel. Oh, that God might look on my heart and see a man who is committed to Him.
Lord, it’s so easy to get caught in the outward trappings of faith. I want to look just right, do the right things, and say what a good Christian is supposed to say. It’s so easy to get caught up in those things and forget to show Your love to others. Help me to see others and You see them, and love them like You do.