Inside out

Read: Exodus 37-38, Matthew 23:23-39

These days, most everyone has a camera within reach. And many, instead of aiming it at the beauty around them, aim it at themselves. With a bit of makeup and a photo filter or two, anyone can be a model. We count friends, likes, and followers like a game score. Like it really matters.

Jesus referred to people like this as blind guides, hypocrites, wicked, snakes, vipers, and worse.

Exodus 23:25b-26

The Pharisees were excellent showmen. They dressed the part and played it perfectly.  Phineas T. Barnum said in The Greatest Showman, “People come to my shows for the pleasure of being hoodwinked.” People generally don’t want to have to admit that something is wrong. They’d rather cover it up and act as though everything is better than fine.

But here’s the thing, like whitewashed tombs, the more paint that goes on, the more obvious it is to everyone how dirty the truth really is. No amount of paint can cover the stench of death. The whole point in whitewashing graves was so that they could be avoided. Even unintentional contact with a burial mound would result in ceremonial uncleanliness.

The more time we spend trying to cover up the ugliness on the inside, the less time we have to actually deal with it. As difficult as it may be to start, one can achieve far better results by taking care of the inside first. Because by taking care of the inside, the outside will take care of itself.

If you don’t want your inside to show outside, maybe it’s time to clean house. Inside out should be easy, not avoided.

Aim higher

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God. And other people will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

Romans 14:17-19 (NLT)

Inclusion is the chant, but division is the outcome. We see it in the news every day. One side yelling at another side, each one believing they’re right. But if you would ask the individuals, most everyone says they want the same thing—peace and harmony. So why are the results the opposite? Why are we tearing each other down instead of building each other up?

I believe it all begins with the individual. Luke said that, whatever is in your heart determines what you say (Luke 6:45b). When one side is screaming at another, one must wonder what is really in their hearts? Is it the peace and justice they claim to want or is it hate and division?

Our aim, like Paul tells us, should be for harmony in the church and [to] try to build each other up. So how do we do that? I think David’s thoughts can start us down the right track.

Praise the Lord, I tell myself;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, I tell myself,
and never forget the good things he does for me.

Psalm 103:1-2 (NLT)

If what is in our hearts will determine what we say, let’s get good things in our hearts. Here in Psalm 103, David speaks to himself, reminding his spirit of the good things God has done. He’s putting good things into his heart so that good things will come out of his mouth.

Getting the good stuff to stick is hard when we’re constantly being bombarded with noise and negativity, but if David could do it, if Paul could do it, we can, too.

For we are not our own masters when we live or when we die. While we live, we live to please the Lord. And when we die, we go to be with the Lord. So in life and in death, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:7-8 (NLT)

Start with reminding yourself who you belong to, whom you serve. Then remind yourself of all He has done for you and for those who have gone before you. Fill your heart and your mind with goodness and peace and joy. Then your aim for harmony won’t seem to lofty.

Try a daily confession. Write your own from verses that speak to you or find one (like this) that lines up with the Word of God. Speak to yourself like David did. Tell yourself who you are and what God has done for you. You may be surprised by what you start to say. When those good things start to pour out from your spirit, the natural effect will be the building up of those around you.

Let us, as the Church, aim higher.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 103-104, Romans 14