Verse of the Day Devotion: Matthew 23:28 So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
This particular verse is part of Jesus declaring the seven woes to the Scribes and Pharisees. This one is associated with the sixth woe which deals with hypocrisy. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” Matthew 23:27. This is an extraordinarily strong condemnation of the Jewish leadership.
He is comparing them to whitewashed sepulchers. The purpose of whitewashing a tomb was not so much to clean them up or improve their appearance. These tombs were whitewashed annually to alert people that these were tombs so that they could refrain from touching them, which would make them unclean. They looked quite beautiful on the outside, but because they had dead bodies inside, it was a violation of the law to touch it in any way.
So, when Jesus is comparing the Jewish leadership to whitewashed tombs, He is in essence calling them fakes. On the outside, they look so good and pure. They come across to all as righteous, but in actuality they are far from it. When in public, they show themselves as keepers of the law, but when alone or with others like themselves, they do not follow it as defined. This is the definition of hypocrisy, which in essence is claiming to have moral standards but whose behavior speaks to the contrary. He condemns them as not being followers of the law, but pretenders.
Do we have people today who act one way and think another? Unfortunately, we do. And we must be careful that we are not fooled by them, just as Jesus had warned His followers regarding this. David wrote the following regarding his foes. “There is nothing reliable in what they say, their inward part is destruction itself. Their throat is an open grave; They flatter with their tongue. Hold them guilty, O God; By their own devices let them fall! In the multitude of their transgressions thrust them out, For they are rebellious against You.” Psalm 5:9. They would lie endeavoring to fool him, and he is praying that God will deal with them justly.
We need to look in two directions to ensure we are not led astray. First, outwardly with those in the church. We are not to assume it is going on simply because we believe it is happening. This is a dangerous road to walk down. But, if we actually see it, we do not gossip about it, but we go to them and help them to see it themselves and make the changes necessary to correct it. “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17 This may seem harsh, but it is critical for protecting those whom they may be influencing.
And second inwardly with ourselves. We must examine ourselves and make sure we are not living a life of hypocrisy. It can be easy to fool ourselves. Before I was saved, I honestly believed I was a Christian, even though I lived a life contrary to the Christian walk. However, God led two brothers to show me where I was wrong, and after a short period of time, God made it clear to me and I then gave my life to Him. It is important we all pray and see where we are. If there are changes to be made, then we make them. It is the only way to be who God has called us to be, true followers of Christ.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.
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