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 these days nearing $1,300 per ounce, the promise of seemingly easy money is tempting. But as you're rummaging through your jewelry chest for that gaudy necklace from your aunt, 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 is 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 purities of the precious metal. But since the purest gold (like 24k) is quite soft and expensive, goldsmiths mix gold with cheaper metals so the resulting alloy will stand up to everyday wear and tear. One of the most popular gold ratings, 18k, is 75% gold mixed with a 25% alloy of silver, copper or both. A lower-purity gold with a more affordable price tag is 14k. And then there's 10k gold: generally the lowest purity that can still be called gold. About 60% of a 10k ring represents metals other than gold! Then things really get dicey when it comes to the gold-filled and gold-plated jewelry sold on cable shopping channels and at mall kiosks.
Gold can look dazzling to the untrained eye. But Jesus--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 to be spiritual and made a show when presenting their weekly worship offering. 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.
It's likely that our Savior would 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's good news for those who want to abandon the facade in favor of a new life through faith in Jesus. Likewise, 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 God desires us to be.