With a lustrous, pale yellow appearance, pyrite is perfectly designed to deceive, and people frequently mistake it for gold. But further examination reveals that pyrite can be crushed far more easily than gold, and when it is crushed, its particles are not yellow but greenish black. Not all that glitters is gold; in the case of pyrite, it is known as “fool’s gold.”
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees with whom Jesus clashed had much in common with fool’s gold. They presented a lustrous appearance. Phylacteries—small boxes Jewish men wear as a reminder of God’s commands (Deut. 6:8)—and tassels were visible signs of piety. These teachers made sure to show off, wearing their phylacteries wide and their tassels long.
But further examination revealed that such appearances were deceiving. Despite their phylacteries, fringes, and other signs of piety, these teachers and Pharisees were not truly devoted to God’s will. Such things were just for show: “Everything they do is done for people to see” (v. 5). While they were happy to appear righteous and to receive the preferential treatment their outward piety elicited (vv. 6–7), they “neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness” (v. 23).
God, however, is no fool and is not tricked by such deceptions. The true treasure God values is not outward luster but inward devotion to God’s will, for us to “hunger and thirst for righteousness” (5:6) and to seek the kingdom of God above all else (6:33). This Christmas Day, let us commit ourselves, like the Magi who first celebrated Jesus’ birth, to offer Him treasure that is truly valuable—all our hearts, souls, and strength.
If you’ve never trusted in Jesus as your Savior from the power and penalty of sin and death, there is no better time than today. None of our good works, no matter how much they impress other people, will secure our salvation. Our only hope is to offer our lives to Christ and believe that He can and will redeem us. Accept His gift of love and salvation!