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.
-- Matthew 23:27
You’ve seen the commercials... the ones that invite you to trade your unwanted or broken gold jewelry for quick cash. And with the price of gold near record levels, the promise of seemingly easy money might be irresistible. But as you’re rummaging through your jewelry chest for that birthday necklace from your aunt (that ugly one that you never really liked), be forewarned that all that glitters isn’t gold. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that when it comes to gold jewelry, what you see isn’t always what you get.
The proof might be as close as your ring finger. That’s because most gold jewelry is marked with a karat rating of 10k, 14k or 18k - the higher numbers indicating the greater corresponding purities of the precious metal. But since the purest gold (like 24k) is very soft -- and not to mention very expensive -- goldsmiths mix gold with other metals so the resulting alloy will stand up to everyday wear and tear. One of the most popular gold ratings - 18 karat - is 75 percent gold mixed with a 25 percent alloy of silver, copper or both. A lower purity gold with a more affordable price tag is 14 karat. And then there’s 10 karat gold - generally the lowest purity that can still be referred to as gold. About 60 percent of a 10 karat gold ring represents metals other than gold! Then things really get dicey when it comes to the gold-filled and gold-plated jewelry often sold on cable shopping channels and late night TV.
The bottom line is that gold jewelry can look dazzling to the untrained eye. But Jesus -- who’s the Master Craftsman -- is quick to spot cheap imitations and showy, overpriced pieces that aren’t what they seem. And he’s looking at people… not jewelry.
Christ aimed some of His most stinging criticisms at the so-called religious people who said all the right things, appeared (often in public) to be spiritual and made a show when giving their weekly church offerings. They looked fine on the outside. But Jesus was able to scrape off their shiny golden veneer to reveal the ugly base metal of their hearts.
He called them hypocrites.
Christ would likely use this same term for some modern day church-goers. After all, they’ve worn their Sunday-finest mask for so long that they think it’s natural. But there is Good News for those who truly desire transformation and a new life through faith in Jesus. God specializes in forming beautiful and useful examples of His handiwork from raw materials exposed to the intense heat of daily trials and tribulations. And it’s when life gets super-heated that our impurities are finally burned away. This trial by fire leaves only high quality gold - the precious metal that’s pure and pliable enough to be formed into the effective Christ-followers that our Creator desires.