Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing” (Mt 23:27-28).
How many of us spend an inordinate amount of time regarding physical externals? Washing, makeup, the right clothes, the correct scents, teeth whitening, plucking, nipping, and tucking. How about time spent exercising through gym memberships, home exercise equipment, physical trainers, sports, stretching, running, or cycling. How about time spent towards a career through education, updating, professional learning, seminars, webinars, and networking. There are other categories that I can add, and the point is that there is not anything necessarily wrong with any of the above in moderation and each in balance is healthy in practice.
Though if external activities are all we are investing our time and energy in, then Jesus has a point. We may “appear beautiful on the outside” with great looks, a body that doesn’t quit, and a career to die for, but what is going on inside? Are we empty, unfulfilled, achieving goal after goal, yet feeling adrift or hollowed out? Do we have all the right social skills and etiquette down, know the right things to say in public, we have friends in the hundreds on our social media accounts, yet we feel alone and not a part of anything meaningful?
Worse yet, do we go to Church, say the right prayers, are active in ministry, we tithe, are members of boards, involved in the community, and doing some great works of charity, but when the door is closed, and no one is looking… what kind of “hypocrisy and evil doing” are we up to? It is easy to stay focused on Jesus chewing out the Pharisees, right now, yet, Jesus wants more for us as well. He shines his light in the imperfections and shadow sides of us as well.
The above represent some of the extremes of external behavior, and I am sure many of us are more balanced in our lives, but we do need to take a good, solid look at what time we invest and where we are focusing our energies. We need to examine our conscience regularly regarding a real assessment of the health of our relationship with God, family, significant friendships in our lives, our vocation instead of occupation, and our service to those within and beyond our intimate circle.
Making time for prayer, study, worship, exercising, eating healthy, discerning, and living out our vocation, and service to others helps to build a foundation for developing the inside, who we truly are, and how God sees us. Making time to rest, renew, and reflect on the core of who we are in the depths of our soul, getting in touch with who God calls us to be, leads contentment and peace. Standing up for who we are and what we believe in, speaking what we believe with confidence and respect while allowing others to do the same, leads to fulfillment and joy. With these points as our foundation then we are more apt to address the externals in a healthier, balanced way, such that we achieve a fuller experience of life, identity, and integrity.
If we spend our time whitewashing the tomb, chasing the finite and material pursuits alone, we will be restless, unsatisfied, and seeking more. Often we will be exhausted creating and maintaining an image of the false self. Instead, we can conform our lives to Christ, be transformed from within, and live a more balanced and integrated life that nurtures, the mind, body, and soul. We will then find meaning, fulfillment, and peace.
Photo: JoAnn, me, Dakota, and Jesse, keeping each other in balance.