The term white washed tombs was part of the only warning that Jesus gave us is found in Matt 16:6 and the parallel gospels in Mark 8 and Luke 12. Although the application of the teaching is different today than it was during the era that Jesus walked the earth, the motivational drive behind the teaching still exists. It is my hope that by sharing with you what I have learned over the 32 years I have been a believer will help you heed the warning Jesus gave us about the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees so we do not become white washed tombs as well.
What was the primary belief of the Pharisee’s? Matt: 23:13 36
As you can see in this passage, Jesus spoke pretty harshly to the Pharisees. The Pharisees were primarily motivated by a performance mentality. They believed that God would be pleased with them if they performed up to a certain standard. In their drive to reach that standard, they made laws and edicts that went beyond the heart or purpose of the laws of Moses and in doing so ended up putting themselves and others into a type of religious bondage that was never supposed to be part of the plan of God.
Modern day Pharisees are motivated by the same thing. Although the laws and edicts might have changed the drive behind those laws and edicts is the same. It is the belief that God will not bless, be pleased, or accept us unless we perform up to a certain standard that motivates modern-day Pharisees. How many times have you heard the statement “God won’t _______ unless you _______? That is the mantra of modern-day Pharisees.
What was the primary belief of the Sadducees? Matt 22:23
The Sadducees were the rationalists of the day. They did not believe in the power of God nor in the supernatural. They were the ones that always explained away the miraculous and relied instead on human reasoning and human wisdom. They were driven by the belief that human knowledge and intellect were a means to an end. Just as the Pharisees believed that performance was the way to please God, the Sadducees believed that human reasoning and human wisdom alone was the way to understand God.
Modern day Sadducees believe that God must be totally understandable and fit into a rational understanding. That there is no place for the supernatural and many even deny the modern-day presence of the supernatural in the church. They rely on their human reasoning and human wisdom to try to accomplish the works of God in the world today.
This problem is not just a modern problem. The Apostle Paul had to deal with both of these issues in the early Church. In the Church of Galatia he had to remind the people that their faith was not to rest on performance but on faith. Gal 3:1-6 In the book of Hebrews Paul tells us that the only way to please God is by faith. Heb 11:6 The Galatia church had started down the path of the Pharisees and had put performance as part of the way to please God.
In the Corinthian Church Paul wanted their faith to rest on the power of God and not on the wisdom of man. 1 Cor 2:1-5 He chose not to try to make things happen or use his superior knowledge but instead showed that church that their faith should be in the power of God. That was the foundation that built the church. It was his example so that they would not go down the path of the Sadducees.
So with these two belief systems pulling at the modern-day church what is the balanced approach for a modern-day disciple of Jesus so they do not become white washed tombs?
It is the practice and application of relationship. Heb. 11:1-8 We must have faith in God. In all honesty, if we are doing things to perform or we are relying on just our human understanding and wisdom, then what we are doing is worth nothing. We must be looking to Jesus. Faith is expressed by seeking God. Not seeking something to do, nor by seeking understanding, but by actually seeking and getting to know Jesus. Putting our focus and attention on the author and finisher of our faith. Heb. 12:2 Faith is grown, perfected and matured by focusing our attention on Jesus. This is the only way to have a balanced and mature Christian walk. It was the original intent of Jesus for coming to this earth. He came to establish relationship. So ask yourself this question. If I tried to have a relationship with my wife, parents, children, friends the same way I approach having a relationship with Jesus, how well would that work?
Now that is something to think about!