“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.“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. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. - Matthew 23: 25-28 (NKJV) As we head towards the finish line in expositing the eight woes from Jesus to the scribes and Pharisees and how they relate to the state of the modern church we come to the sixth and seventh woes. I heard a local pastor once lament that the church, which is supposed to be salt and light to a dying world, is really better at being pepper and glitter. Pepper may have flavor but it preserves nothing. It may have flair but saves nothing. Glitter of course has no real light of its own - it can only reflect light. We were not meant to be mere reflectors. We were meant to show the light of Christ within ourselves and as the church. In these two woes today we see Jesus bringing several charges to bear that we must examine. The first charge is that the scribes and Pharisees were much more concerned about appearances than they were obedience. They wanted to be seen and viewed as something they were not. They looked the part beloved. They dressed the part. Flowing robes and majestic colors. Always holding the seats of greatest honor. Lofting themselves above the common people. Jesus likens this to cleaning the outside of the cup and dish. Making sure it was all pretty and sparkling. Much like we see today in the modern church. Mega churches with renovation costs exceeding 100 million each. Waterfalls in the lobby. Restaurants and bookstores inside. Often times no cross or altar to be seen but plenty of the bells and whistles the world likes. Pristine in its presentation. Flawless in its design. It is a well washed cup. It is a spotless dish. Yet what is on the inside? Extortion and self indulgence. We have seen already how the Pharisees abused their positions of power to benefit themselves financially by devouring the estates of widows. Extorting money from travelers seeking to make sacrifices in the temple. It is one of the primary reasons why Jesus overturned the merchants tables and declared that the house of God has been turned into a den of robbers! Self indulgence? The Pharisees had the corner of the market just like the false preacher parade today. The Pharisees are the equivalent of the TBN false preachers. Self indulgence? How about one mega church pastor who owns at least five private airplanes, his own airport, and a six million dollar mansion he claims as a "parsonage" to avoid paying taxes on it? How about a fake healer in charge of a multimillion dollar operation who claims God told him to fleece his flock by telling them God would pay back their donations two dollars for every one contributed? All so he can get his ministry out of debt? How about another mega church pastor who stole 200K of tithe money to cheat the NY Times Best Seller list to make sure his book made the list; for which he may have profited personally over 1.5 million dollars? We rightly mock the silly reality show depicting the wealthy "Pastors of LA" but the reality is that they are only the ones brave enough to admit it openly. The self indulgence trickles down from the pulpit, through the ministries, and into the waiting congregation. The look at me churchianity that exists today is too busy exalting man and the world to lift up the name that is supposed to be above all names. And extortion? Consider one renowned pastor who teaches his sheep that if they do not give him their first 10% - before the rent and bills are paid - that God will curse the remaining 90%. He teaches that to avoid the "devourer" from killing their children and destroying their marriages - they better tithe to him first. It is not just the mega churches either. I know of local pastors who have told newlyweds that they were not conceiving because they were not tithing correctly. I know of others who have removed loyal members from the membership roles for perceived tithing grievances. Demanded "covenant agreements" from the sheep in order to enforce tithing. I heard just last month a pastor preach that if you don't tithe - don't come looking to him if you need a funeral for a loved one or a hospital visit if you are sick. Such men are not fit for the pulpit. Bright and shiny on the outside but filled inside with all sorts of filth. Jesus continues by making another important comparison in the seventh woe. This is the woe of whitewashed tombs. Once again a woe about wanting to appear to be something you are truly not. As we saw with earlier woes, the Pharisees did not practice what they preached. They walked around as if they were super-spiritual but on the inside they were merely filled with dead mens bones. What a scathing indictment for the church today as well. Preaching merely to appear righteous. Twisting the Word of God to suit your own ends. Claiming divine revelation where there has clearly been none. Claiming the mantle of apostle, prophet, or even preacher when God has not called you to be such. People seemingly in a rush to self promote yet claim it is what sayeth the Lord. Churches led by such men today who are merely CEO's and not true shepherds. Woe to you indeed who will give an account for every sheep entrusted; even the ones that were cast out. Churches that appear righteous but who have compromised the Gospel to the point that it can no longer save anyone. Whitewashed tombs filled with dead mens bones. Men who think they are alive because they have been told such. Three sentences and welcome to the family of God? How arrogant! How presumptuous! We cannot be righteous and lawless. We cannot preach holiness while compromising with the world. We cannot claim to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and then strip it of all its power. Come for coffee and free wi-fi. Come for our Children's Ministry and our cutting edge youth ministry that amounts to pizza parties and a bucketful of worldliness. Come for our professionally unsaved choir and dynamic public speaker/CEO. Come for the waterfalls in the lobby and the padded pews in the sanctuary. It is beautiful. It is all shiny and new. It sparkles in the eyes and dazzles in the neighborhood. We were even on the Katie Couric Show this week! Hmm? Jesus? Oh yeah, we love Him too...did I mention our trip to Israel this year? It will be life-altering. Sin? No we preach love and think everything else is a conversation. That's what our pastor tells us. I have never felt better about myself since I joined this whitewashed tomb... But inside it is all dead mens bones. Outwardly appearing righteous but inside filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness. Clean on the outside but inside filthy with the things of this world, extortion and self-indulgence. We cannot be pepper when the world needs salt. We cannot be glitter when they need the true light of Jesus Christ. Rev. Anthony.