“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27 NKJV).
I recently visited a young man in Bangladesh who had been involved in a traffic accident. His father showed me his X-rays, clearly revealing a broken and separated bone in his forearm and another in his upper leg. He then showed another set of X-rays taken after surgery which revealed a plate attached to the arm bone and a rod inserted in the leg. As always I was amazed and grateful for the marvelous technology we have which enables doctors to accurately diagnose and treat internal conditions.
In Matthew 23 Jesus gave us pictures of the sick heart of a hypocrite. Seven times he pronounced woe upon the scribes and Pharisees who so often confronted and opposed him. One such woe (verse 27) described the inner man, or the heart, comparing it to a tomb, washed, clean and beautiful outwardly, but full of corruption and rotting flesh within.
Unlike some other pictures, X-rays are not intended to be hung on the wall to decorate and be admired. They are taken for one purpose only – to aid in healing. If one does not intend to treat an injury there is no reason to take a picture of it. On the other hand, if healing is desired, the first step is to ensure that one knows exactly what the injury is by looking within.
Every human has some spiritual diseases. That is to say that every human sins (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8). Those sins are not always evident to an outward view (Matthew 15:18-19). Sometimes even the sinner may not know the nature or extent of his or her sins. One may be content with a clear conscience, yet be guilty of offenses against God, as David seems to have been after his affair with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:1-7).
God, of course, sees and knows all things. “For the Lord does not see as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7; see also Proverbs 16:2, 9). His knowledge of humanity is complete, as David described: “O Lord you have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; you understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways” (Psalm 139:1-3).
God’s intimate knowledge of us may lead to one of two reactions. There may be fear and dread, caused by guilty knowledge of our sin. David confessed to that reaction, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it”. He tried to hide from God’s knowledge, but without success (Psalm 139:6-12).
There is another reaction to God’s perfect understanding of us, however, and that is acceptance and trust. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxieties, and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way of understanding” (Psalm 139:23-24).
Just as the doctor uses the information contained in an X-ray to help him to heal broken bones or other ailments, so God uses his perfect knowledge of us to our benefit. He does not spy on us to betray, but searches deep within us to expose any wicked way and lead us to righteousness.
How does he reveal our secrets to us, so that we may repent and turn to him? Paul taught “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). The Spirit’s witness is contained within the Word of God, revealed through him. “For the word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
When we honestly examine our thoughts, words, and actions, then compare those with God’s revealed will in the Bible, we come to an understanding of our status in his sight. Sins are revealed; motives are known, and our deepest needs become plain. We must not be content with a casual surface glimpse of our spiritual lives, but rather look deeply into our most secret places. We must because God already has.