Monday, October 26, 2009

Whitewashed Tombs

“For you are like whitewashed tombs - beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Matthew 23:27-28

When God repeats a lesson to me three times in less than 24 hours, I need to take notice. The above verses came to my mind yesterday afternoon while reading my friend Elaine’s blog. At church last evening our Pastor’s son, Graydon, used them as an illustration in his message. This morning they appear in my reading. What is the Lord saying to me? What message does He want me to understand? What root of misconception does He want to dig up and what truth does He desire to plant in my heart?

I confess that growing up, I was one who judged by appearance. If someone was dressed a certain way, I would assume much about their personality, character and conduct. Pretty outside meant pretty inside. I learned that was not always so. Unfortunately, much emphasis was placed on appearance in our home and many days my clothing masked a cold heart.

As I shared with Elaine last night, I struggle to find the balance in this issue. I long to give Jesus my best, and on Sundays that best includes extra effort in my attire. However, I can honestly say, the condemnation I used to feel towards those who came to church dressed in their ‘less’ and not their ‘more’ has completely dissipated.

Yet, here’s the catch. As my friend Elaine wrote yesterday, “when our ‘coming as we are’ is based on our laziness rather than on our desire for holiness, then we’ve missed the mark.” Finding the balance between dress and desire. Am I dressed to impress or is extra effort put forth on Sundays because my heart longs to bring God my best for the reason that He is worthy? It’s all about the 'why’ isn’t it? It’s about the motive or the reason behind our less or best.

But, even as I write that…is He not worthy every day? I’m not talking about legalism here, but love. Should my love for my Lord not compel me, as His ambassador, to represent Jesus well seven days a week? I’m not referring to clothing here friends, but conduct and contrite heart.

Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. So, for me it comes down to the fact that I don’t want to look the part and wear the ‘expected’ because of tradition or ‘religion’, having my finery falsely advertise a heart that is far from God. It’s got to be real through and through.

So, dressing to reflect both my heart condition and my love for God today, what am I going to wear? Let’s not be whitewashed tombs. Passion, authenticity and love wear better and witness easier.

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Marilyn in Mississippi said...

Joy, I know just what you mean! Yesterday I started teaching a series of lessons in my ladies Sunday school class from Richard Blackaby's study called "Putting a Face on Grace". In it he talks about "grace-less" Christians. How so many times when we feel like we are "getting it right" in our Christian life we are so quick to be harsh and critical and judgemental to others....not freely giving to others some of the grace we received. It really hit home with me! I hope to be found giving more grace than I have been!

God bless you my Friend! Mississippi

Kathy S. said...

Yes! Well said Joy, thank you for bringing a measuring tool to me today...a good thing to ponder on a regular basis!

So Lord, help me to put on the Lord Jesus Christ! To be clothed with compassion, humility, patience etc...Oh give me a heart to please you Jesus!

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

A good part-two, friend. I have a hard time with my judgments along these line. For a long season, I wasn't sure why, but as I have grown in my faith over the years, I can't help but want to have my Sunday look different from the rest of the days of my week. Since sweats and t-shirts are common fare for those "rest of the days", I enjoy looking a bit different on Sundays. I always try and impress this on my kids... on giving our best to Jesus because he is worth it. Fortunately, we tend to the heart stuff all week long, not just on Sundays, so dressing up for us is like putting some icing on a well-baked cake. Hope that makes sense.


Laura said...

You may know my story by now...after praying for my husband for 13 years, he finally accepted Christ. Part of his reluctance in the past was the hypocrisy he saw in many aspects of church life. Dress was one of them. He saw folks who put more stock in their clothing than their hearts. He became determined to be a genuine Christian. He often tells our boys that God doesn't care what clothes they wear, He cares that they want to be with Him. I agree, but have struggled with this. I tell our boys that, no, God doesn't care, but...isn't it nice to dress up for God? I go back and forth, and, of course...know that in the end it is my heart He treasures, not my wardrobe. I think there are people who are uncomfortable dressing to the nines for church, and feel out of place in such an environment. This is why God gives us diversity in worship and denominations, I think.

I appreciate your openness with this issue, JOy. It's often a very touchy subject.

Shelley L. Houston said...

I found this blog entry after doing a search on the term "whitewashed tomb." After being ridden hard at a Christian retreat by a leader, this phrase came to me as I prayed and meditated on the word while driving the 13 hours home. I wondered what I would find in my study of the phrase.

I am an elderly Christian, both in body and spirit. I have wrestled with the issues you dear sisters are dealing, balancing being respectful in dress and sincere in heart. 3 years have passed since this discussion.

The rampant hypocrisy that I have experienced in the Christian culture during this recent retreat goes way beyond what we should wear on SUnday--but is the same in putting on airs while covering sin on the inside. Our call as Christians is to be transparent, that His light may shine from within us.

Laura's husband's hesitation about becoming a CHritian is a good example of the stumbling block our pride and falseness is to thse around us. It's th eultimate rock under which to hide the light within us!

This all shakes me to th ebone in examining my own heart. May we shine with th eLight within us.

Blessings to you all.

Shelley L. Houston
Eugene, OR