After Jesus had spoken, a Pharisee invited him to dine at his home. He entered and reclined at table to eat. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal. The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees! Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil. You fools! Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside? But as to what is within, give alms, and behold, everything will be clean for you.” (Luke 11:37-41)
It was not unusual to invite a rabbi to give a teaching over dinner. Jesus, however, did something which offended his host. He did not perform the ceremonial washing of hands before the meal. Did Jesus forget or was he deliberately performing a sign to reveal something to his host? Jesus turned the table on his host by chiding him for uncleanness of heart. It was a moment for the truth of Jesus to stand out, loudly and clearly. In today’s vernacular, it would have caused the Pharisee to squirm (more than just a little).
The words of Jesus should cause us to reflect on the authenticity of our faith beliefs. Are we more concerned with looking the part of a Christian or actually being a Christian? Are we as concerned with holiness on Monday as we are on Sunday? Are we a Christian example to your coworkers? Do we uphold biblical standards when around non-believers or are we more apt to act like them?
In truth, there are those who suffer from “religiosity.” I define that as someone who loves being religious, who loves going through the motions, going to church, putting their offering in the plate, signing the songs, and listening to the sermon. But this same person who loves being religious doesn’t live out the Christian life. They don’t go to church because they love Jesus, rather they love tradition. It makes them feel good.
Jesus then strikes at an another equally serious trait with the Pharisees – the issue of giving alms to those in need. When they, and we, give to those who are less fortunate, we express love, compassion, kindness, and mercy. And if the heart is full of love and compassion, then there is no room for envy, greed, bitterness, and the like. The key for us is allowing God’s love to transform our heart, mind, and actions toward our neighbor.
Transforming the way we look at our neighbor helps us avoid being judgmental. I have lost track of the times in my ministry that parishioners would confide in me with their “evaluations” of others. How wearisome that became for me. Often, but certainly not always, these were the people representing themselves as pillars of Christianity. In their self-righteousness, they felt a “responsibility” to point out the specks in others while ignoring the planks in their own eyes.
In the end, it will come down to how well we kept the inside of our faith beliefs. If we follow His word and His spirit, there will be no need for ritualistic cleansing.
Prayer of The Day
Lord Jesus, fill me with your love and increase my thirst for holiness. Cleanse my heart of every evil thought and desire and help me to act kindly and justly and to speak charitably with my neighbor.
The key is to focus on interior cleansing, not exterior cleansing. To do the latter while ignoring the former reveals the hypocritical heart. This gospel is not meant just for the Pharisees. It is meant for all believers of all times; it is meant for you and me today. We need to be sure that our pious practices do not become a matter of show or a matter of score-keeping. The ethical demand of the gospel calls us to take time every day to discern whether our “religious” actions reflect the true condition of our hearts.