There are seven “Woe to you” statements in Matthew 23. Jesus was warning the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees not to focus on outward things. Of the ten trees we had removed from our property this week, we knew that one was damaged. An arborist saw the spot where it had been hit by lightning. We hadn’t seen it. Other than that one spot, the tree looked healthy. When it was cut down, we realized how unhealthy it really was on the inside.
The tree was empty in the center. It looked okay on the outside, but it took all of its energy to produce what we saw externally. It had nothing inside, and one storm could have taken it down. If you spend all of your energy and resources on what people see externally, don’t be surprised if a storm takes you out. Jesus defined hypocrisy as “everything they do is done for people to see” (Matthew 23:5a). He encouraged us to work on what was inside, and then what is on the outside will be good as well.