Most people do not like to remain dirty. We will work hard and become all sweaty and dirty, but when the opportunity comes we will hop in the shower to wash the grime away. We tend to find dirt and stench repulsive. This is why we have such a strong desire to be clean; we don’t want to be repulsive to other people. I believe all of us would confess that we go to great lengths to be clean, to smell nice, and be presentable to the public.
While we may take great pains to be clean on the outside, many of us live in constant filth on the inside. People may be able to praise us for our wonderful good looks, our the amazing talents, or our wonderful accomplishments but they have no idea about the thoughts and desires which lurk in our hearts. We have a nice clean exterior but a filthy interior. The truth is that we can hide a sinful life in a perfectly clean body.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27-28; ESV).
Jesus confronted the Pharisees because their focus was on fabricating a perfect religious exterior to be praised by men and ignoring the desires of God. Many of the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day were obsessed with their appearance, tedious rituals, and public acts of righteousness. This obsession led to them ignore the poor, the outcast, and God. The Pharisees may have had a great religious appearance, but their hearts dark with pride and vanity.
Jesus taught that whatever is in a person’s heart overflows into their actions. If we do not deal with our sinful attitudes they will be seen in the way we live. If we put violence, blasphemy, pornography, and other evil into our hearts and minds that will come out in our actions.
We have a responsibility to put into our hearts things which are positive, things that are godly, and things that are good. The apostle Paul said it this way:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:8-9; ESV).
If we want to be good on the inside as well as look good on the outside we need to put into our hearts those things which meet the approval of God. We need to be involved in Bible study (personal study as well as sitting under good Bible teachers), prayer, and worship must all be a part of our lives. It is also important to remember that our entertainment must be wholesome and uplifting. We must learn to throw out evil thoughts as well as to think about what is holy.
Not only do we have to take control of what comes into our minds and our hearts, but we also need to take control of what comes out. We cannot just play church, but we must be ready to step up and put our hearts into action. It is important that we commit to serving those in need, giving generously from what God has given to us, and intentionally being a light of God’s love to those around us. The love we have for God should be seen in the way we live our lives. The trust we have for Jesus needs to be seen in our obedience to his teachings.
This is my plea to you today: Don’t be a whitewashed tomb, but be a beautiful temple.
Questions to Consider:
- Have you ever gone through the motions of a religion in order hide the darkness in your heart?
- Do you recognize the connection between the meditations of your heart and the actions of your life?
- Why is it so important that we seek a clean heart and not just a religious life?