by Jacob Hudgins
“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”(Matt 23:25)
The Pharisees were masters of the outward. Whether it was straining gnats out of their drinks, elaborately washing their hands, or praying long prayers on street corners, they appeared immaculate. Yet their religion—the changes in their lives and the devotion they professed—was merely cosmetic! “For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence”(Matt 23:25). He paints an even more disgusting portrait: “For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness”(Matt 23:27). The corruption inside them—the dirty dish and dead men’s bones—identified who they were far more than the outward appearance.
The point? Real religion must engage the heart! “First cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also”(Matt 23:26). Fix the heart, and the life will fall in line!
Christians can be guilty of similarly shallow, outward religion. While it is always important to obey God’s outward commands (1 John 2:4), what are we like on the inside? Are we “full of greed and self-indulgence”—using outward appearances to mask evil desires within us? Is our motivation sincerely serving God or getting what we want? Are we “full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” in our hearts? Is our faith only cosmetic?
“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love”(Rev 2:4). We didn’t come to Jesus because of scintillating moral arguments or impressive outward appearances. Jesus appealed to hearts. He won our hearts. He is our “first love”. Real religion must engage those feelings of sincerity and zeal within us. Give your heart to Jesus—serve Him with the outward and inward—and never allow your service to be merely cosmetic!