Lipstick on a Pig
You clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Matthew 23:25
As physicians, we can be guilty of treating a symptom while ignoring the underlying problem. When someone has complications of an unhealthy lifestyle, we recommend changing the lifestyle, but that’s hard to do, so often, we provide a pill to treat the complications. Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle lead to high blood pressure and type two diabetes, so we provide medications to lower the blood pressure and blood sugar. This doesn’t change the underlying problem, it just ameliorates some of the complications.
I did something similar in my addiction. When I first ran into consequences, I tried to just stop using. My addiction though, was a symptom of a deeper problem. I followed myself in all things and as long as I continued to do so, I wasn’t going to stop. I was destined to return to drug use as long as I failed to address the underlying problem.
In today’s passage, Jesus accused the Pharisees of the same behavior. He said they made a show of giving offerings to God, while ignoring justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You strain out a gnat and swallow a camel (Matthew 23:24). They demanded obedience to specific rules which they could easily follow, but they didn’t truly follow God. They still followed themselves. In today’s vernacular, they put lipstick on a pig.
As Christians, this is dreadfully easy to do. Part of us wants to live as God asks, but deep down, we still follow ourselves. If we can find a bunch of sins we don’t struggle with though, we can point to those, claiming righteousness. Then, we attack those who are guilty of those things we consider to be the worst sins. In being hateful and condescending, we reveal that we’re still harboring and indulging in our own evil. We’ve put on a clean facade, but it’s all a lie.
What is the solution to our duplicity? First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean (Matthew 23:26). If we truly want to be transformed on the inside, we must repent from following ourselves. Transformation is a daily process in which we continually choose to abandon self to follow Christ. In doing so, he makes us new creations, inside and out.