by Mike Ratliff
27 “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. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:27-28 ESV)
Last week on Friday morning, as I was preparing to drive to work, I was attempting to put my coffee mug and computer bag into my pickup via the passenger door, which I had already opened. I had not yet scraped the frost from the windows. I did not have my gloves on because I needed some dexterity to use my keys while holding my coffee mug in my right hand and my computer bag in my left. Also, I was standing on about 2 1/2 inches of very slick, uneven ice. I had managed to insert the key into the lock and open the door, but as I leaned into the pickup to put my stuff inside, I felt my feet going out from under me. It happened very quickly. I don’t remember much about the fall, but I do remember the landing. My computer bag landed on my right leg. My coffee mug and keys exited in opposite directions from my right hand as it struck the edge of my pickup door then the ice covered concrete. My right hand took the brunt of the fall. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had two cuts on my right hand with a whole section of skin missing measuring about 1/2 inch by 1/4 inch. The pain I felt was mostly in my right elbow and right knee. I grabbed my keys and pulled myself up. I found my computer bag and carefully put in the floorboard of my pickup. My coffee mug, being a very solid and well made stainless steel beauty ended up under my Spirea bushes in one of my flower beds. I retrieved it, put it in the pickup, then gingerly walked around to the driver’s side of my pickup. I put my gloves on as I held onto anything I could grasp to keep from falling again as I got my door open. I started the engine, turned on the defroster and began to scrape frost from the windows. I did the best I could do then got into the cab. I put my seat belt on, shut the door then turned on the windshield wipers in order to run some washer fluid/anti-freeze stuff on it so it would finish the job. The wipers started, went as far as they could vertically, then I heard a popping sound. The wipers quit. They were stuck in the vertical position. I think I got the message.
Just thirty minutes or so before my circus act, I had been in prayer. Here is an excerpt from my journal from that prayer time. “Continue to help me become the Christian You deserve me to be. Help me witness and continue to write edifying posts, books, or whatever you desire and will. I am Your servant.” Most people reading that would not immediately see the connection between that prayer and my accident and pickup mechanical problems nor what either has to do with Whitewashed Tombs. However, as I was driving to work trying not to move in such a way so as to make my arm or leg hurt I was thinking about the connection big time. What is it within each of us that makes us hypocrites, keeping us from denying ourselves, taking up our crosses and following our Lord Jesus Christ? Isn’t it our pride? Pride is the enemy of the very thing genuine Christians must posses in order to become Spirit-led. It is humility. Humility grows and thrives in a heart that is tender towards God. Pride shrivels and dies there. It requires a heart that is hard towards God. A tender heart is able to “see” spiritually. A hard heart is relatively blind spiritually.
I actually thanked God for giving me a wake up call that morning. Yes, it hurt. Yes, it was inconvenient. Yes, it hurt my pride. Yes, it opened my eyes to the fact that I must write this post to reveal that how our thinking is mostly backward and cannot be trusted in this battle. Yes, we are in a battle.
I decided to write this post roughly based on my “fun” Friday morning as I shoveled snow and ice from my driveway today. You see, last weekend we had four days of freezing rain, sleet and light snow. Then the rest of the week the temperature was into single digits and the teens. We are having our basement finished so contractors are parking in my driveway and in front of my house. They are using our garage for storage of their materials so my wife and I have to park on the driveway. Therefore, my driveway had a very thick layer of ice on it that would not go away. I treated it with chemicals, nothing. The black and gooey stuff that accumulates under vehicles constantly driving in this stuff was over the top of the ice in most places. The ice on my driveway was not pretty. It was not even at all and it had a certain polluted look… Then, yesterday it started snowing. It snowed all afternoon and all night. When I looked out there this morning, it was beautiful. The ugly, polluted, brown and black ice was all covered with a very beautiful layer of pristine snow. Looking at it, it was impossible to see the pollution under it. However, I knew it was there.
I started with cleaning the snow off of my pickup and my wife’s car. Then I started shoveling snow from my porch and walkway. Then I tackled the driveway. I could not clean a spot of snow unless I first broke up the ice underneath. I had to use two shovels. I used one of my garden shovels made of steel to thrust under the ice to break it up. Then I would take my snow shovel and move it off of the concrete. The snow ended up on the bottom of the pile with huge chunks of ugly ice on top. The concrete started taking on a cleansed look. It took me about two hours to finish the job. My right arm still hurts, especially where I whacked it on Friday. However, as I worked, God continually kept pointing out to my heart what I was seeing. The snow was beautiful, but beneath was corruption. The snow was white, but the ice was black and brown and gray and was full of chemicals and road grime.
What’s the point? It is relatively easy for people to take on the appearance of Christian piety and purity by being religious, but at the same time, be full of pollution, corruption, and sin. They may exhibit their religiosity for all to see, but they are doing so from a foundation of pride. These are the ones who resemble the Pharisees that Jesus was speaking to in Matthew 23. We must never forget that religiosity is not a key indicator of a regenerated heart. Anyone can be religious.
Is there an application for us who are genuine Christians from this? If we are God’s children then He will not spare us from problems, pain, embarrassment, or any other thing we don’t like if that is what it takes for Him to change us and grow us in grace. Our pride must not be given a home. Instead, we should be cultivating genuine humility. If we do then what will be doing? Won’t we observe that we are God’s and He calls the shots? Won’t we put everyone else ahead of ourselves? Won’t we stop seeking our own and, instead, attempt to be self-sacrificial in our relationships from a motivation of obeying God because He is God?
We must examine ourselves. We must give God our complete selves not holding anything back. We must be everyone’s servants. We must seek to obey our Lord and emulate Him in all that we do. Time is short beloved. Let’s get serious about our walks before our Lord. I hope you noticed that I didn’t say become more religious.
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