I used to love to people watch. If I was sitting at an airport, one of my favorite things to do was to talk about everyone who walked by: how they looked, how they dressed, what they were carrying. The mall was a great place for that too, and don’t even get me started on Wal-Mart. I thought it was funny and harmless, but it wasn’t.
It was hypocritical.
And it wasn’t funny or harmless.
Chapter 23 is full of hypocrisy. Paul even calls out the high priest for it when he calls him a “whitewashed wall.” That was a pretty harsh insult back then, and it refers to a dirty wall that’s been made to look clean. A lot of the Jewish leaders were acting like whitewashed walls throughout this chapter. They claimed to be holy and righteous at the exact same time their pride was leading them to riot and create murder plots. They were way more concerned with appearing holy and righteous than they were with actually living that way.
Kind of like me when I was people watching. Making fun of people was my way of making my dirty wall appear to be clean. Pointing out everyone else’s shortcomings made mine seem not so bad.
But this kind of “whitewashed” living does not point people to Jesus. In fact, it does the opposite. Because if I’m not pointing people to Jesus, I’m pointing them away from him. There’s just no middle ground in that.
How can I possibly tell people about a Savior who washes away their sin when I’m pretending like I have no sin myself? How can I tell people about the only one who can save them when I’m pretending like I don’t even need him? How can I give Jesus glory for what he’s done in my life without admitting the complete mess I am without him?
Here’s the answer to that: I can’t.
When I constantly whitewash myself, I tell people that I can do it on my own, which means they can do it on their own, which leads them so far away from Jesus it’s not even funny.
But when I get real, admit my shortcomings, acknowledge that I can’t do it without him and that the work on the cross is the only thing that can rescue me from my mess, that’s when I point people to Jesus.
And that’s how I want to live.
What about you?
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