The Heart of the Matter
Lord, to You I turn in joy, sorrow and need. You are my source of blessing, comfort, and wholeness.
Read MATTHEW 23:25-36
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). Do you spend as much time (or more) on interior health as you do on exterior appearances?
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Prov. 4:23). True religion is a religion of the heart and, however tidy the exterior, God is concerned about what is happening inside. In today’s passage the funeral lament continues as Jesus declares judgment on those who distort true religion.
The unusual washing-up habits of the religious teachers betrayed their concern for ritual cleanliness, while remaining indifferent to true inner righteousness (25,26). The fundamental purpose of the law was distorted, since the religious leaders were more concerned for outward show than inner integrity. A whitewashed tomb was an even more graphic illustration (27,28). It was not unusual to whitewash tombs so that travelers could avoid the contamination of unintended contact (Num. 19:16). Jesus’ point is clear: distorted religion is an attempt to beautify externally what is corrupt internally, a veneer to cover wickedness (or “lawlessness,” which would have been a direct hit for these teachers of the law). The fierce irony continues, as Jesus highlights their concern to honor the prophets by carefully tending their tombs (29) while at the same time rejecting God’s messengers (34) and soon murdering the Prophet, Jesus himself. They thought they were the heirs to the prophets, but they were simply following an established pattern–Jesus explains the A to Z of such rejection, from Abel’s murder through to Zechariah (Gen. 4:2-10; 2 Chron. 24:20-22). They carefully decorated the graves of the prophets while harboring hatred and wickedness in their hearts. No wonder Jesus didn’t hold back: “You snakes! You brood of vipers!” (33).
Is it possible that Christians could effectively be among the walking dead? Our first concern must be for inner transformation, for true godly righteousness. Everything else follows.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart… See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psa. 139:23-24). Jesus calls us to an interior check-up.
Yes, Lord, convict me of any heart issues that need attention, and cleanse me of my sin.
Click here to sign up to receive the EXTRAs via email each quarter.
© 2023 Scripture Union U.S.A. All rights reserved. Reproduction of the whole or any part of the contents without written permission is prohibited.
Encounter with God is published in the USA under license from Scripture Union England and Wales, Trinity House, Opal Court, Opal Drive, Fox Milne, Milton Keynes, MK15 0DF.