I have been in an online Bible study of I Samuel and the emphasis has been on the importance of the heart. So often, we are concerned about outward behavior. It is important, but our behavior reflects what is in our heart. It’s easy to assume what motivates the behavior of another person. For example, if she dresses a certain way, she has one motivation that is bad. If she dresses another way, her motives are good. But this is not always the case. Sometimes, the person who seems to be dressing more modestly, is merely conforming to her peer group and is not consciously trying to be modest or even please God. We just don’t know what motivates individual people until we listen to them for a bit.
How often do we know someone (including ourselves) who behaves well, even looks great on the outside, but the motivation for that behavior is not good at all. Think of the many times Jesus spoke very bluntly to the Pharisees regarding their behavior. It looked so good on the outside. They seemed to keep all the rules of the Law.
But his description of their behavior was that from His perspective, that good behavior looked more like whitewashed tombs–on the outside they look beautiful, but on the inside, they are full of dead bones. Jesus saw what motivated their “good” behavior. Often, it was pride, a desire for man’s approval, religious preening and various other motives. In fact, often, they seemed to keep the rules, but actually, they often broke the spirit of the rules. To God, they fell under the category of looking like whitewashed tombs, There was nothing on the inside that was alive. They were dead inside. This passage goes into more detail here.
“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.
Matthew 23:27-28 ESV
Can you imagine? The one who knows your heart describing it that way? No wonder they hated Jesus so much. When you consider how hard the Pharisees worked to convince everyone that they were good and religious. And Jesus described them that way? I don’t know if they realized that he had them all figured out or if it made them angry that He described them in such ugly terms. Either way, they were not happy about what He said. He was not impressed with their form of religiosity.
Questions to think about
- In my everyday Christian walk, am I more like the Pharisees in trying to put on a show for others when inside, my heart is full of dead men’s bones and uncleanness? Or is my spiritual walk, one that comes from a heart that is open to God, willing to walk in obedience to Him and do His will wherever it leads?
- Am I honest with God and those around me regarding my spiritual situation? Or do I try to pretend I have my spiritual life more together than I do, with no times of struggle or no failures? That doesn’t mean I have to tell everyone about every struggle and doubt I have or every failure I have had. It simply means that I don’t pretend I don’t have problems or struggles when I do.
- Is the motivation of my heart to look good and seem to be doing fine? Or is the motivation of my heart to love and serve Jesus whether I end up looking good or not? These questions may help you understand if you are more like the Pharisees whose hearts were hardened against Jesus or more like those who wholeheartedly followed Jesus.
- Remember, you can always go to God for forgiveness. When you recognize areas where you need to repent for gods that you worship before the real God, He is always ready to hear you as you spend time dealing with areas that need repentance. Where have you failed? What is the area of root sin that needs repentance? What change needs to be implemented in your life as a result of your repentance? Do you need to make restitution with anyone in order to bring about reconciliation? Ask the Holy Spirit to make clear to you what is happening in your heart.