It was beautiful – An imposing, cathedral-esque type of church. Stained glass windows. Vaulted ceilings. All the things you expect of a church in a bustling, glamorous city. An organ played during the services and an eloquent man gave a sermon.
But something was missing.
The outside looked respectable, but the heart was missing. It was religious on the outside and devoid of a true heart of worship on the inside. Every time I think of this place, Matthew 23:27-28 comes to mind:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres (literally tombs), which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones… Ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy.
A few hours later I found myself in a much different place. It was in the not-so-glamorous part of this glamorous city. It was a mission, reaching out to people that were “down on their luck”. The building was very old, worn, and not very attractive.
But nothing was missing.
Inside we found a group of homeless people and a passionate pastor. The service wasn’t nearly as formal and “religious” as the first church, but the heart was there. God was there and God was worship as He should be.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled… Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
It’s been several years since I spent that Sunday in New York City, but the experience has stuck with me. It makes me think… makes me examine myself. Are we (am I – are you) a bunch of Pharisees that “appear beautiful outwardly”, saying all the right things but having nothing to back it up with? Or are we willing to be poor and humble ourselves before the Lord?