“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.” -Matthew 23: 27-28
The word “whitewash” absolutely fascinates me. It means to cover up, to camouflage, to gloss over, and to sugarcoat. Whitewash is also a form of paint that is made up of slaked lime powder, chalk, water, and other ingredients. The ornate buildings found in a cemetery are whitewashed tombs. The whitewashed tombs are filled with the bones of those who have passed on.
In this passage of Scripture, Jesus likens the Religious Leaders and the Pharisees to whitewashed tombs. In other words, they looked wonderful in the outer appearance. They followed the law in the presence of people. They were dressed beautifully in their long flowing robes. They followed all the religious ceremonial laws, and yet they were practicing a life of sin behind closed doors. They had hidden sins, and Jesus was calling them out on their hidden sins. So whatever sins they believed they had concealed were exposed by Jesus.
Isaiah 29:15 states, “‘Woe to those who seek deep to hide their counsel far from the LORD, And their works are in the dark; They say, ‘Who sees us?’ and, ‘Who knows us?’” The people of Jerusalem were concealing their evil behavior. Having to conceal their wicked behavior clearly indicated they knew they had sinned. They kept continuing to practice a life of sin. They convinced themselves to believe that God did not see or know what they were doing. The people of Jerusalem also were trying to conceal their true intentions and motives from the Lord. Before we are harsh in our thinking towards the people of Jerusalem, we are not that much different in today’s churches.
“Those who seek deep to hide their counsel far from the LORD” is a description of one who attempts to cover and conceal his or her actual intentions for evil. Outwardly, they come across as sincere. Their appearance may look good. Their speech may be influential and convincing. They may even sound credible. The problem is that those who conceal their sins or their double life are filled with dead men's bones. Their fake displays of piety, going through the motions, and presenting themselves as men or women of God are the whitewashing of the tombs that contain the bones of dead men. Inwardly, the foulness of pretense and hypocrisy is the stench behind the doors of the whitewashed tombs (evildoers, hypocrites, deceivers, liars, and the like). We have the capability of deceiving ourselves that God does not see or know what we are doing in secret when no one is looking. When we try to conceal sin of any kind, we are nothing but whitewashed tombs filled with a stench that rises up to the nostrils of God who sees and knows the sins we commit.
It is essential to understand that we cannot conceal sin. God is El Roi (The God Who Sees Me). Proverbs 8:13 states, “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.” Before God, everything is laid out. Nothing is hidden. Everything is stripped bare. We should never be so foolish as to believe we can conceal any sin from God.
Linda A. Knowles