“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” – Matthew 23:27-28 (NIV)
I know – not a very cheery passage to open with, but give me a chance. It is clear from this warning from Jesus to the Pharisees, and many others like it, that He was not pleased with how they were representing Him and His Father in heaven. They had pillaged worshippers of God in the temple courts, they had so convoluted the interpretation of the laws that they spent more time arguing about them than helping God’s children and they had lost sight of their own brokenness.
The Pharisees are the repeated example of where a religious, legalistic life will take a person. All glitter; no gold. Whitewashed tombs. There are plenty of us out there right now heading down the same path the Pharisees trod and Jesus is warning us. Each time we bristle at someone questioning our holiness, every time we deny any need on our part, every time we hold out our good deeds for others to see and admire we build the walls thicker and paint them whiter. When the world has wounded us, but we don’t want anyone to see us as weak; when our hearts are broken and we put the mask of contentment on to hide the pain; when we clothe ourselves with rationalizations to cover the sin in our lives – we are getting darker and closer to death on the inside.
There is another incident earlier in Matthew that gives us incite to how we can avoid this condition: Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there. (Matthew 19:14-15 [NIV]) I don’t know about you, but I have to be careful what I am teaching my children about what it means to be a good Christian. When I tell them to be strong or tough, am I teaching them to be like the Pharisees? When I am telling them to be “appropriate,” am I teaching them to love God within a box? Am I showing the same level of excitement and pride for their Spiritual successes as I am for those gained by physical prowess or innate skills? I think the problem is that we spend too much time teaching children to act like “grown ups” and not enough time teaching them how to be wise.
In the end we have to remember that in God’s eyes we will always be children. This is important if we want to experience healing in our lives because Children very seldom hesitate to let someone know that they are hurting. While they may not always like the cure, most children will still run to mom or dad with a skinned knee or hurt feelings. Maybe that is where my children need to learn about being strong – the part where they get cured. Maybe I need to be more like my daughters in my life with God. Maybe I need to learn to cry when I get hurt. Maybe I need to be brave when my Father tells me to hold still while He does His healing work. Maybe I need to be more like a child. Let the healing begin.