Matthew 23:27-28 ESV
“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.”
I love exploring cemeteries. If you follow me on Instagram you can see on my profile that I am a member of the Instagram group Graveyard_Dead. I have no qualms about going out into a cemetery and snapping a shot of a headstone, marker, or statue that I think looks cool. It’s an artistic appreciation, but it does not often go beyond the marble.
In the movie Galaxy Quest, the “Captain”, Jason, gets stranded on an alien planet where he ends up fighting a rock monster. Actually, he’s running from it while talking to the crew members on the ship trying to find a way to get out of his dire predicament. Alexander, the serious actor, asks Jason what is the creature’s motivation. Jason replies, “It’s a rock monster! It doesn’t have motivation!”
A Christian who is just a whitewashed tomb has motivation, but it’s the wrong kind. He or she will look good on the outside, and even serve in various ministries, but the ultimate goal is to look the part so as to not have their character questioned or to have others tell them what a good Christian they are. You probably won’t be able to recognize it unless you get close enough to them to get to know them.
For instance, you might have someone who has seen a need in the community and started a ministry to meet that need. From the outside everything about it looks good and you even help with it. But then you walk up on a conversation by one of that ministry’s leaders. The conversation does not stop but continues in a diatribe about how that ministry was not mentioned during announcements along with attribution of malicious intent rather than giving the benefit of the doubt that it was not intentional. Before long the leader surprises the entire congregation with a diatribe of his own during what was supposed to be a children’s sermon. While both ministries are good ministries and the leaders appeared to be committed to serving, the self-aggrandizing showed their hearts to be more committed to their own recognition and honor from other people than to humbly serve.
In another case, you have a deacon. He’s very intelligent, and an excellent handyman. He’s a good teacher. He takes care of several widows in the community in addition to his sisters. He has a beautiful wife who is also a gifted teacher. They are active in the local church and even in the association. But at home, he is domineering and abusive. He rules his household through fear and shame. Grace is absent. No one really knows because there are no physical marks – only deep emotional wounds. He has become convinced he is always right. Eventually he crosses the line and cannot justify and rationalize his actions to others which now extend beyond his family. But he can’t see his part. Even as he sits in prison, he is a victim and not the perpetrator.
Galatians 5:19-21 ESV
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Take out the sex, sorcery, and drunkenness, and you will see many of the other traits in a whitewashed tomb. They don’t drink, do drugs, smoke, have sex outside of marriage, or cuss. At least you’ll never see it. But they will point out any little infraction they find in you. They lack compassion, grace, and humility. Just like the Pharisees.
Galatians 5:22-23 ESV
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
It’s all about your motivation. Either you are working for the sake of performance to show that you are worthy of man’s praise (or seeking personal comfort), or you are working according to the fruit the Holy Spirit is producing in you. Our motives probably aren’t ever completely pure, but if we can keep our mouths in check and don’t sound a trumpet every time we do a good deed, we are most likely using our love for Jesus and compassion for other people as our primary motivation.
Matthew 6:19-21 ESV
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”