Your hair is really healthy,” said my hairdresser after giving me a haircut. “I hope it’s because you use our products.” “No. I’m sorry,” I said. “I just use whatever product is cheap and smells good.” But then I added, “I also try to eat well. I think that makes a big difference.”

When I think about the things we do to make ourselves look good, I’m reminded of some of the things we do to make ourselves look good spiritually. Jesus addressed this issue with the religious leaders in Jerusalem (Matt. 23). They followed an elaborate set of religious rules that went well beyond the ones God had given them. They worked hard to look good to their peers, to prove that they were better than others. But their hard work didn’t impress God. Jesus said to them, “You cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside [you] are full of extortion and self-indulgence” (v.25). What the Pharisees did to make themselves look good to others actually revealed that they were not good at all.

Every culture values different religious behaviors and traditions, but God’s values transcend cultures. And what He values isn’t measured by what others see. God values a clean heart and pure motives. Spiritual health is expressed from the inside out.