“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. So you outwardly appear righteous to all, but within you are full of lawlessness.” Matthew 23:27-28
In these verses Jesus is talking about the worst kind of false piety: those who know they are unrighteous, and simply want to present a false impression of godliness. They don’t really care about God’s law or God’s people. They look for loopholes and ways to justify themselves. They behave one way at church, and another way in their private personal or business dealings. These are people who attend church and are known as “pillars of the community” yet may beat their children, cheat their employees, and quarrel with their neighbors. Why do they do these things? Simply because they can. To them Christianity is only a label used to make them look good or worse yet, give them power over others.
Do you know the worst consequence of this kind of piety? It turns others away from the faith. How many people have you met who refuse to hear the gospel message because, “I’ve known some of those folks and they are just hypocrites. They say all the right things, but they sure don’t act that way!”
The sad thing is, we’re all capable of falling into this kind of false piety, at least at times. It’s easy to compartmentalize our Christianity and keep it locked up to be brought out only on Sunday; it’s harder to walk the walk every day in every situation. Most of us aren’t intentional phonies. We just get angry, or frustrated, or we have certain bad habits we can’t (or don’t want ) to break. However, faith isn’t meant to be a part of life, it’s meant to be our way of life.
The best remedy to this kind of “phony” piety? Recognize it, confess it and work to correct it. Be beautiful inside and out. That’s true piety.