In the city where I used to live there was a place near the business district that could really use some sprucing up. I was pleasantly surprised when I drove by that location one day and they had installed attractive concrete walls. By the next time I drove by, shrubbery had been added and everything looked very nice. But as time went on when I would drive by I could see all the shrubbery had wilted and died. You see, it had all been built on the remains of an old landfill and there was so much toxicity still in the ground from the buried garbage, that nothing could thrive in the area around it.
This reminded me of a Scripture I read recently. Jesus was addressing the Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew 23. Actually, he was predicting the woe that would come to them because they were so self-righteous. In Matthew 23:27-28 he says, “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 filled with 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.”
Jesus did not pull any punches with the Pharisees when he was speaking about them and in fact, while speaking to the crowds and his disciples, he listed seven woes and called the Pharisees hypocrites several times. Not only did he call them hypocrites, he called them blind fools, snakes and vipers!
I often wonder what Jesus would think of modern day churches and their leaders. I have been reading so many stories about moral failures of church leaders that it makes me heartsick. The fact of the matter is that hidden sin will always be revealed eventually. Whether it is someone nationally known or just someone known in the local community, every time buried sin surfaces, the consequences are damaging to the name of the Lord.
Every time I read about a pastor’s infidelities, his lies to the church, or his financial greed, I cringe. I am grieved, because don’t they realize the harm they are doing to the body of Christ? When a minister throws up his “righteousness” while castigating others, it makes me wince, because doesn’t he (or she) realize that love and humility are greater ways to show the love of Christ?
We as a body of believers need to bring sin to the light and hold people accountable. Whether it is the hidden sins of child pornography, consorting with prostitutes, sexual abuse, or simply self-righteousness, all of those who call themselves Christians need to be held to a higher standard.
Jesus saw the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders. He ended his list of woes with lament, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Matthew 23:37-39
Lord, I pray that I am willing to not only be gathered under your mighty wings, but to learn to soar above my earthly desires so that I bring honor to your name. I pray that any hidden sins I have will be shown to me, so that I may repent and glorify the name of Jesus. Lord, help me to be a beacon of light that reflects you, rather than a hypocrite who dishonors your name. I pray for the church and church leaders who get caught up in the self-righteous path and fail to recognize the sin in their lives. Lord, open their eyes and show them your truth and your righteousness. I am so thankful that the day will come for all of us to say “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Amen