As Jesus cuts into the religious hypocrites of his day, one of the “woes” he pronounces on them is this:
27 “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. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
It’s a graphic picture. Rotting corpses lying behind clean, newly painted, white outer walls. The smells of fresh paint and decomposition combine in an oddly unpleasant mixture. We might only wish the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus referred to were the only ones ever to be found guilty as charged.
Unfortunately, as long as there shall be religion in a fallen world, we can count on the existence of religious hypocrisy. If the world, the flesh and the devil can’t get us to fall headlong into sin and drown, they will keep trying to find something for us to dip our toes in when no one is looking. It may be some secret dishonesty or indiscretion. It may be a smug self-satisfaction that we are not as evil as someone else. It doesn’t matter what the rottenness is caused by, it only matters that it is there.
The starting point in reversing the process is simple honesty that hypocrisy is real, wicked, and consistently knocking at our door. Basic honesty with ourselves and others removes the need for religious hypocrisy and is almost already its opposite. We don’t have to clean up the outside to impress anyone and the inside will not deteriorate beyond a certain point. The Holy Spirit, if he dwells within, will see to it.
It’s the confessing sinner that is able to repent of sin and the humble servant that can somehow live with an outward flaw. Hypocrisy is an obstacle in the way of genuine spiritual growth. The highway toward true holiness has many off-ramps that lead to hypocrisy. We need to be sure not to take any of them. When our inside and outside are in harmony, both trending toward a Christlike end, all is well. One day we shall be inwardly and outwardly pure.