Eight Woes 6 and 7: Appearances

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, February 7, 2020 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” ~Matthew 23:25-28

“Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them.” ~Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars: Episode IV

I put these two woes together because they address the same issue: outward appearances of beauty but inward realities of death and decay. This is a repeated theme throughout these woes against the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. Please note that Jesus was and is not against religion. He was and is against FALSE religion, specifically play-actors and hypocrites who do not practice what they preach. The Pharisees and scribes were supposed to lead the people in the worship of God and to prepare the way for the Messiah, and yet all they did was use such positions for monetary and political gain. It was all about what they could gain out of it and for the praise from men here and now.

Not all is as it appears to be. Not all who claim to be Christian are indeed Christian. I have watched people declare themselves to be Christian, say all the right things in front of certain people, then turn around and not knowing I am in hearing range say the vilest things about those they claim are their “brothers and sisters in Christ.” It’s hypocrisy. Their “niceness” is nothing more than a façade to hide what they really are. False believers and spies act that way. They will use our language and our words, but they clearly have different dictionaries. They may claim to believe in the inspiration of Scripture or the infallibility of Scripture, but if you listen to what they do with certain parts of Scripture, it’s clear they really don’t believe that. They use equivocation, word salad, and big vocabulary terms that most of their audience does not understand to try to sound smart; yet when the façade is pulled away, so is any pretense of them being who they say they are.

A true believer can act that way too, however, it’s not their character. It’s simply a moment of weakness where the flesh won out in that particular moment. As this series has been about self-reflection, let us face the facts: every single one of us deals with this issue of wanting to look good when in reality, you aren’t what you pretend to be. At the root of all this is the fear of man, the fear of rejection, and the desire to be the best in the eyes of men. Jesus nailed it when He repeatedly pointed out the Pharisees’ desires for the praise of man in how they prayed, how they fasted, and how they looked in public. Yet inside, Jesus could sense their hearts were anything but genuine. I personally wonder if they ever would have cared for attempting to carry out the law if they didn’t have people watching them. The reason they were so threatened by Jesus was simply because He was taking away from them how they gave themselves the greatest value: the praise of man. Jesus was telling the people to not listen to them nor follow them, and they did because they knew He was telling them the truth.

What about us? Jesus pointed out the hypocrisy in the Pharisees on big issues, but He cares about the little cases too. Eric Ludy has a sermon on “When a Pastor Leads a Double-Life.” In it, he describes how when he was younger, he’d tell little white lies for the sake of pleasing people. He’d add a goal he’d score in a game to his actual totals, he’d shave off a few tenths of a second in his running times, or add a few pounds to his bench press, and for what? To please his audience due to feeling inadequate in their eyes. When he confessed it, those he’d lied to completely embraced him and wept in prayer over him. God was working in him to remove hypocrisy in his life, removing the outward clean appearance and inward ‘no-so-clean’ reality.

One of the reasons so many people refuse to confess their sins is because they are scared to death about what would happen if the public found out. We know what our propensities are. We know what we are capable of doing if the sinful flesh were given opportunity to unleash itself. I may not know what yours is, but I know what mine are and I know that regardless of what form it takes, if God were to turn it loose, our names would make Hitler look like Mother Theresa. I have areas in my life that I know full well that if God were to withhold His merciful hand from restraining that sinful part of me that hasn’t been cleansed yet, it would not be pretty to see what happens.

How does your outward life compare to your inward life? Is there a difference? As Christians, there shouldn’t be. It’s an easy thing to say, but not so easy to do. Some of us don’t deal with a weakness because we don’t know how to fight it. We’ve fought it for years and constantly lose. But there is hope. That hope can only be found in Christ Jesus. He did beat that temptation and that sin. He too was tempted to live publicly one way and privately another. He beat it. Jesus did not tolerate hypocrisy in His own life, so as He lives His life in us, He will work in us to remove any hint of hypocrisy in us. But we have to be willing to let it go.

No matter how much we may try to hide it, God is going to expose it. We can expose it to Him and He will deal with it, or we can continue to hide it and God will expose it publicly. And if God has to expose it publicly, it will include great levels of humiliation Worse yet, it will give others reason to blaspheme the name of Christ. We must deal with that inner sin before it deals with us. Let us not be white-washed tombs, pretty on the outside but with a leprous disease on the verge of escaping and showing its true colors from the inside.

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