On a sunny Saturday afternoon, I had the opportunity to explore Alcsuti Arboretum's forty hectares, located about 50 kilometers southwest of Budapest. As I wandered, I came upon a huge, beautiful tree that had been recently felled. Initially, I was shocked that anyone would think to cut down this tree, so fine in appearance. However, as I inspected it more closely, I found that it was hollow inside. Though it looked healthy externally, in reality, it was already dead, or at best, in the advanced stages of dying.

Similarly, we live in a culture that places high value on external appearances. And this mentality can easily find its way into the Church. As we fall into the trap of seeking man's approval, rather than God's, we begin to craft our behavior with the intention of maintaining a façade of righteousness. This approach sets us up for destruction, taking our attention away from the state of our hearts and leaving us vulnerable to the enemy's attack. Eventually, we wake up one day and realize that we have become like the tree — seemingly healthy on the outside, but dead on the inside.

Speaking to the religious leaders of His day, Jesus addressed this issue, saying,

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." (Matthew 23:26-28 NIV)

This week, let us flee from the temptation to focus our attention on maintaining appearances. Instead, may we seek to keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus, allowing the externals to flow from an inward reality.


Sharing the journey with you,

Bob Snyder