As I rounded a corner of Schloss Sanssouci in Germany (an immense palace grounds), I walked under a beautiful, ornate gazebo. The intricate patterns, glittering gold and jewels, and countless details caught my attention and caused me to pause. The level of skills and immense wealth used to create the gazebo was very evident, reflecting the wealth of the royalty of the time, and certainly would have been a showpiece for them.

However, as I continued to examine the gazebo, I realized something was missing. Standing amongst all the intricate gold, I looked up and saw that the roof was not solid. If it rained, I would get very wet. If the sun was blazing down, I would not be protected.The gazebo was beautiful, but did not provide any protection from the elements, and therefore, really, was useless.

I believe that is what Jesus was telling the scribes and Pharisees in Matt 23. They did a good show about tithing but missed justice and mercy. They looked clean on the outside but were dirty with greed on the inside.  They appeared beautiful on the outside but like whitewashed tombs, were full of filthy hypocrisy on the inside. They looked good, but provided no shelter for others and were useless.

Countless times I have worked hard to appear good, clean, shiny, and yet forgot about the inside. I have made a good show of things, but did nothing to be the shelter from life, the protection from the elements, that God wants me to be. I have worked on the “beauty” but not the purpose. I have been a golden gazebo, creating a showpiece but useless for carrying out God’s plans.

Lord, help me put aside my desire to look perfect, create something people will admire, and instead focus on what is important to you. I want to create a shelter from the heat and storms of life for people, a shelter where you are evident.