The Shell of Death
By Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic
How beautifully our people in the Balkans decorate eggs. The more beautifully to decorate Easter. To increase the joy of Pascha. To make their guests more happy. Sometimes the colored eggs are truly art. If the colored eggs are let to stand too long, they become rotten inside, and give off an unbearable odor, or at the end completely dry up.
That is when the colored shell holds within itself death.
More dreadful is Jesusí picture of the hypocrites who are like "whitewashed tombs, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead menís bones and all uncleanliness." (Matthew 23:27)
"Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father who is in Heaven." (Matthew 6:1)
The righteousness which is beloved by God, as Jesus revealed on the Mount is as follows: mercy, prayer, trust and faith in God as the only Master, not worrying about tomorrow, seeking before anything else the Kingdom of God, having faith that you shall receive from God that which you ask Him for, that you will find that which you seek, that you will open a closed door; and also: not to judge with a sharp judgement, and not to measure with a false measurement, so that it is not returned to you likewise; do not seek for the speck in your brotherís eye, while hypocritically hiding the beam in your own eye; doing unto your fellow man everything you would wish him to do unto you; not being afraid of the narrow, but pure and holy path, which leads unto life, but taking flight from the smooth and wide path which leads to death; giving good fruits to God your Host, who planted you like a good tree; not becoming proud of your great deeds, but doing everything, "According to the will of My Father Who is in Heaven"; fulfilling in deed, all of Christís words, and in that way, building the house of your eternity as a wise man, who builds his house not on sand, but on rock, so that neither flood waters, nor winds, nor storms can harm it. (Matthew 6,7) The Pharisees, scribes, and hypocrites, do everything the opposite of these Words and wisdom of God. When they give alms, they do it in meeting places and on the streets, and they donít do it for the glory of God, nor to help the poor, but only to be seen by men.
When they pray to God, they pray on the streets, again, only to be seen by men.
When they fast, they make their faces look sad, and unkempt, and pale, again so they can be seen by men. Alas, they do everything only to be seen by others, as allegedly being merciful, prayerful, and great fasters.
They do all this, and do it today, for two reasons: that they may receive from men gloryóand money. With God, they do not even reckon with, as if He doesnít even exist. In truth, hypocrites are the most ultimately godless men. Deceived people give them what they want, and that is their pay in full. From God, they have nothing to await, because they have not indebted Him with any of their deeds, but have only incurred His wrath.
They have "drawn near to Me with their mouths, and with their lips honor Me, but their heart is far from Me." (Isaiah 29:13)
If they are not abiding by the will of God the Father, then they are abiding by the will of "the father of all lies." The father of all lies, the devil, taught them that , it is normal, natural, and reasonable to do so, and that others before them also did likewise, and lived nicely, having received from men glory and riches. That is the trodden down path of the world, and they should not go down that path, in spite of the world. They, wretched as they are, do not feel how much Satan has deceived them with such lies, and how much he has polluted and dried up their hearts that even angels of God turn their faces from the stench of their souls.
All their outward, fixed-up appearance, is only a colored shell of death, a whitewashed tomb. When it comes to them, that which we call death, alas, all that really comes to them is the confirmation and seal of their already long past, dead soul.
But you, do not be like the hypocrites, Christ taught the people. Do not be like the hypocrites when you give charity, "But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing." (Matthew 6:2,3)
Do not be hypocrites when you pray to God. "But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly." (Matthew 6:5-13)
Do not be like the hypocrites when you fast. "But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father will reward you openly." (Matthew 6:16-18) "For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light." (Mark 4:22)
God will reveal to you great secrets at a time when you do not expect it. The prophets and righteous knew this, but the scribes and Pharisees did not, and still donít.
The prophets and righteous feared God, and loved their own people, while the Pharisees and scribes, the hypocrites, do not fear God, and hate their own people.
Jesus feels compassion for His people, to tears He feels compassion for them, whom the Chief Priests and Rulers deceive, abuse, and take advantage of mercilessly. (Matthew 15: 32 ) In His previous sermon, Christ openly makes war against their hypocrisy. (Mark 8:2)
As the Son of God dwelled amongst men, and time passed, He increases this war against hypocrisy, abasing it, and the hypocrisy of the religious rulers of that time, abasing them before their very faces, and in front of all His people.
He never abased any sinners as much as He abased the hypocrites. Finally, Jesusí abasement of hypocrisy, near the end of His earthly stay, turned into dreadful thundering, which literally startled. It shouldnít surprise those who know, that Jesus did not speak to only one generation, the one during His time, but to all generations to the end of time.
While He abased the Jewish hypocrites face to face, He abased all hypocrites of all times and all generations.
Why did Jesus strike so sharply and mercilessly specifically on hypocrisy? It is because hypocrisy is a Satanic lie, Satanic hypocrisy from the beginning; that is the weed that Satan has sown in all of Godís crops on the earth: in manís heart, in his home, in his wedlock, in his company of friends, in his people and nation, in politics and trade, in sadness and in joy, everywhere, in all ages and civilizations. Not one civilization succeeded in rooting out the weed of hypocrisy, but that weed rooted many of them out. If one civilization shone with glory outwardly, like the European and Japanese, that does not mean that they destroyed hypocrisy, but only that they hid it more skillfully underneath their shell on which was not written the name of Jesus Christ as it is written on Paschal eggs in the Balkans. Rather, theirs read: courtesy, manners, sophistication, words the demons are not afraid of, and the weed of hypocrisy, unhindered, grows rampant.
Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, announced at the beginning two wars: against Satan, and against hypocrisy. The people loved Him, and honored Him with tremendous God fearing respect, as their Savior. "For He taught them as One having authority, and not as the scribes." (Matthew 7:29)
From the Complete Works of Bishop Nikolai [in Serbian], Book 12, p. 825. Translated from the Serbian by Marija Miljkovic.