Clean Cars and Whitewashed Tombs

When we bought our car, Joe, the previous owner, passed the keys over with a look of pride mixed with carloss and said, “Brian, will you make me a promise? Keep her clean.”

“Clean” is about as spiffy as our car could claim. It’s a 2004, with plenty of miles and it’s well broken in with dents, a missing armrest and an assortment of scratches. BUT it runs, it’s a five-seater, it’s paid for, and the little beater gets brilliant mileage.

But here’s a confession: In the six-plus months we’ve owned our Picasso, keeping it clean hasn’t made our to-do list… ever. We make sure to remove any trash every few days because we often collect people for worship service on Sunday. But that’s about it.

Perhaps I should be ashamed of the constant, light coating of mud that covers the bottom half of the vehicle, but I can’t bring myself to care that much. This is Ireland. It rains almost every day. It’s going to get dirty again as soon as we hand over a few euro to have it cleaned. Nah, the dirt on the outside of the car doesn’t bother me.

The inside, is another story. Even though we regularly clean out napkins, soda bottles and papers that seem to breed in our car (please tell me we’re not the only ones who deal with this), the carpet is a mess. Bits of turf and briquette crumbs line the “way back.” Dirt, grass and probably some microscopic pieces of sheep poo (Eewww!) from our shoes litter the carpet.

None of these bits are big, but they are visible… enough so that our little 8-year-old friend Ian pointed out “your car is a mess” when he climbed in the backseat. He was right, and honest. Ouch.

Brian took a broom to the way back which helped, but sweeping carpet isn’t really effective. So I started looking around for a carwash that had a hoover (vacuum) I could use to get rid of the dirt. I’ve stopped in at four car wash locations (the only four I know of in town) and asked if they have a hoover. None do. Finally, I bought an extension cord so we use our own machine… one day when it isn’t raining.

The fact that the carwash locations don’t have a solution for the dirt on the inside of our cars, only  a way to shine up the outside, reminded me of what Jesus said about the Pharisees and other religious leaders of His day: “Everything they do is done for people to see….”

The sparkling clean cars that leave their establishments look impressive from the outside (at least until it rains again). But the inside is still a mess.

The same could be said of the religious leaders of Jesus’s time. In fact, He called them on it: “You hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

If we’re honest, the same is often true in our own lives. It’s way easier to pretend that we have it all together than to actually deal with the dirt (aka, sin) in our lives. We don’t carry around signs that read:

“I hate so-and-so,” or

“I watch porn,” or

“I’m going to smoke a joint after work tonight,” or

“I’m cheating on my spouse,” or

“I lie to my spouse/parents/friends because I can’t deal with confrontation,” or

“I worry,” or

“I have to be in control,” or

“I’m jealous of my friend” or

“I care more about what people think of me than what God thinks of me.”

And without those signs it’s really pretty easy to hide our sin from people and keep our dirt to ourselves for a while. But sooner or later, someone peeks inside and says “your life is a mess.”

Jesus’s advice to the Pharisees works for us today. “You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence,” Jesus said, “First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean….”

Clean the inside first.


  • Admit to yourself and to God that your life is a mess. He already knows, anyway.
  • Don’t try to fix it by yourself. Ask for help. Start privately by asking Jesus to clean you from the inside out and to help you keep from getting dirty all over again.
  • It can also be beneficial to ask a trustworthy person to help you stay accountable to your desire to clean up your act. If/when you slip up and they call you out, be smart and listen. Don’t get mad at them for telling you the truth.

Everyone’s life is a mess. We are all either trying to hide our dirt or trying to deal with it.

We’ve got to start with the inside and work our way out.

5 thoughts on “Clean Cars and Whitewashed Tombs

  1. Paul

    Erin and Brian,
    It is heart-refreshing to read of the wonderful things happening in Ireland. I was scared of how you would settle in Ireland- a new place, people and culture. You are in our prayers, all the way from Africa but too close in the Kingdom.
    Be blessed

  2. Allan Landin

    Your 8-year-old friend is another great lesson for us. Why? Trust kids for honesty. That’s why Jesus ascribes the kingdom to “such as these.”


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