White Washed Tombs
In the second chapter of Joel, God commands Israel, “Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”
I was reading this in my quiet time the other day, and it just got me thinking. God is calling Israel out on their sin of rebellion and idolatry, and He says, “stop trying to look like you care, and let this hit your hearts.” Notice, God doesn’t see their outward show as repentance.
Repentance is an inward turn of our hearts towards God, which is followed by our actions. Our hearts will define our actions, not the other way around.
Jesus said something similar in Matthew 23, “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. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
Jesus calls out the spiritual leaders of Israel for the same thing. His rebuke is even harsher! He tells them that they look great, but they are DEAD inside.
That’s the real problem with religion if we think about it. It looks awesome, we do all this stuff for God, we make sacrifices, and we tithe, and we serve, but inside we’re dead.
Jesus knows that. That’s why He came to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus came to defeat religion, and bring it back to relationship. Before the law even existed, Adam walked in the garden with God, Abraham was considered a friend of God. God has always been about relationship.
God has always been about getting deeper than the surface of our actions to the heart behind them.
God is more concerned about your relationship with Him than your tithe check.
Those verses in Joel might look a little bit different today, they might say something like “stop tithing your money and start tithing your hearts!”
Tithing isn’t wrong. It wasn’t wrong for Israel to show that they were upset with their sin, but the problem rises when it never goes deeper than the show.
We can end up in a worship service singing things like “break my heart for what breaks yours” or “I surrender” But then we leave church and the words become empty. They were nothing more than words we sang during the song.
Those worship songs weren’t intended to stay on the projector screens. God’s Word wasn’t written to give us lots of books that we only use so our bookshelf looks more full.
Those words were inspired by God, so that we would take them and let them change the way that we live, and mold our hearts.
Ephesians 2 tells us that God, being rich in mercy, took us from being dead to being alive.
God brought us to life in Him. That isn’t just an outward show of life that looks cool. It’s a life that takes root in our hearts, light springs from the darkness and consumes us with the Spirit of God.
There is nothing fake about it, when we have the new life in Christ, we aren’t white washed tombs, but resurrected men and women, living and acting in the power of God.
We have the opportunity to be more than mediocre, we can be part of the greatest community, the greatest cause, the greatest Kingdom ever. It all begins with going to Jesus and allowing those words to become real to us, allowing those words to change us from the inside out.