Matthew 23:3,27 For you preach, but do not practice… For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.
Years ago, my wife and I moved into a house and upon attempting to attach the cable TV, found that the supposed cable access was just a cut-off wire that the previous owners had stuffed into the corner to give the appearance of cable access. The offense in our minds was not that there was no cable access. The crime was the façade they had created, presumably to make the sale of the house. It seemed a small and petty thing to us, but It also made us wonder what other lies we had purchased. The cover up was the greater insult.
Jesus, in a blistering lecture, warned the Pharisees that they too were guilty of manufacturing a false exterior to cover up their diseased reality. Insisting on harsh rules for others as the path to God, they failed to follow God themselves. They demanded humility while honoring self. They provided a great show of righteousness but neglected justice, mercy and faithfulness. Acutely aware of the shortcomings of others, they remained blind to their own failures.
Jesus said they were as a tomb, painted white to cover up their decay. Not only were they dead inside, they tried to hide it with a false front of Godliness.
In reading Jesus attack on the Pharisees, I inevitably start to see myself in them. I grow uncomfortable with the recognition that I too, tend to cover up my decay instead of cutting it out. Fixing the actual disease of my corruption is so much more painful that just trying to hide it. If I just dress up, go to church and sing loud on Sunday, maybe no one will know what I did all week, right? Maybe I can just teach Sunday School, instructing others, instead of following God myself.
We all do this to some extent, I think. It is painful to be open and honest about the destructive pursuits we still engage in. No one wants to walk into church and confess that they yelled at their kids, viewed pornography, indulged in hateful thoughts, or got drunk last week. We are terrified at the thought of others seeing what we really are inside, so we manufacture a false front to fool everyone. We cut off a cable and stick it in the corner so it looks real.
In our façade, we may demand that others behave rightly, even when we do not. We pick sins that we do not struggle with and hold those up as the really bad ones. I may be riddled with pride and greed but at least I am not a homosexual, right?
Jesus insisted on rigorous honesty. If I want to follow God, I do not get there by covering up my failures or pointing out the failures of those around me. I get there by dealing with my own mess. A false exterior is just another manifestation of my pride. If I want the pleasure of knowing God, I must commit to the discomfort of abandoning my own decay.