In Matthew 23 Jesus launches into a verbal assault on the Pharisees and scribes: the religious leaders and lawyers (interpreters of The Law) of the nation of Israel. He calls them hypocrites (several times) and blind guides, saying they would strain out a gnat and swallow a camel: meaning that they pick at details but ignore the main concept of faith. His most striking analogy, however was to call them ” whitewashed tombs “: painted and pleasing to the eye on the outside, but full of death and decay on the inside.
His diatribe came because these leaders portrayed themselves as the holiest of the holy yet exempted themselves from many of the rules and laws they expected those they lead to follow. They put on great shows of piety, but then exhibited no compassion toward others. They grew fat and rich while those they led suffered. They offered long, impressive prayers; but had no actual regard for God.
Jesus’ accusations of the leaders of His day also ring true for some today. Anyone who uses the preaching of the Gospel to amass wealth and comforts for themselves is obviously neglecting the needs of those who follow them.
But even every-day “Christians” can be guilty of being whitewashed tombs if we parade our righteousness on Sundays then live like everyone else in the world the rest of the days. If we are truly following Jesus, we will live a consecrated life every day, not just when gathered together with other believers.
Hypocrisy is the stench that fills whitewashed tombs.