During a recent trip to my hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas, I passed by a garbage dump on the outskirts of town. Lush, green grass covered the huge mound of dirt surrounding the dump. There was no garbage in sight. To one who did not know better, the area had more the appearance of a park than a garbage dump. However, having traveled this way often while living in Corpus Christi, I knew what lie on the other side! Filthy trash! Smelly garbage! This beautiful mound of grass-covered dirt hid piles of stinking waste!
As I traveled past this dump, I could not help but think of Jesus’ interaction with the Pharisees. “And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat. And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner. And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also” (Luke 11:37-40 – King James Version). These Pharisees foolishly made the mistake of focusing on the outward man while neglecting the inward man. They focused on what man saw and neglected what God saw. Jesus called them hypocrites (Luke 11:44).
As I traveled past this dump, I also thought of those today who profess Christianity but in reality, they are much like this dump. They dress in their “church clothes” on Sunday and faithfully occupy their pew. They attend Bible classes and sing along with everyone else when it is time to worship. Their names are included in the “membership directory.” Outwardly, they have every appearance of a Christian. The casual observer sees nothing that would indicate otherwise. However, like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, they have a huge problem: they give attention to the outward yet ignore the condition of the inner man. Rather than being molded to God’s will, they allow filthy trash and smelly garbage to fill their hearts. They appear clean outwardly but inwardly they harbor a pollution that robs them of life (II Peter 2:20). Their character is defined by envy, malice, hatred, selfishness, coveting, backbiting and pride. Like the hypocritical Pharisees of Jesus’ day, they are the hypocrites of our day.
Jesus’ words to the Pharisees should serve as a reminder to us as well. It is not enough for us simply to have the outward behavior of a Christian. We must also have the heart of a Christian.