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 on the imperfections and shadow sides of us as well.
We can spend our time whitewashing the outside, projecting a perfect image, while chasing the finite and material pursuits alone, which will more than likely leave us feeling anxious, restless, unsatisfied, and tired. Maintaining and protecting a false image on any level is exhausting. Instead, we can take a good look at the time we invest, where we focus our energies, examine our conscience, and assess the health of our relationship with God, family, significant friendships, our vocation instead of occupation, and our service to those within and beyond our intimate circle.
Making time for prayer, meditation, study, worship, exercising, eating healthy, discerning, and giving of ourselves in service helps to build a firmer 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 will help us to face those areas we may be hiding from, those areas in need of healing or repentance.
Instead of attempting to project a perfect persona, we will do better to be in touch with our weaknesses, our faults, wounds, and prejudices so as to no longer defend or rationalize them but seek healing, reconciliation, and growth. By doing so, we may be more accepting, patient, understanding, and forgiving of others because we will come to realize that we are not perfect nor that the world revolves around us. This path will lead us to experience more meaning, fulfillment, and peace that we can then share with others.
Photo: JoAnn, me, Dakota, and Jesse in our happy place – with each other.