While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you. (Luke 11:37-41)
This is a hard section that we happen to be on as we gear up for the Thanksgiving holiday here in America this next week, but God knows and planned this timing so let’s dig into it!
Many Pharisees in Jesus time were hypocrites, they were more concerned with their outer appearance and what people thought of them than the state of their hearts and what God knew of them. This ended up with them disapproving of Jesus because Jesus didn’t uphold the tradition of their fathers, even though He was perfectly doing the work of His Father and upheld the Law perfectly. One of these traditions that Jesus didn’t follow was washing before dining.
To Wash or Not to Wash
Now, this wasn’t like when your mom told you dinner was almost ready and to go wash up; this was a ceremonial washing of the hands with water only. It often wouldn’t even be a full hand washing, it would often be a dipping of the fingers and drying them off. But it wasn’t their hands that needed to be washed, they needed to be washed with the water of the word to cleanse the inside.
It could seem like common sense to wash, even with only water, before eating, but the issue here is not about hygiene, the issue was that the Pharisees held the traditions of man equal to the Law of God and were more concerned with upholding traditions – even disapproving of the actions of God in the flesh based on it. Could you imagine disapproving of God Himself?? Goodness me! Instead of Jesus’ actions being a catalyst to inspect themselves and change to be like God, they placed their own traditions and outer perception of spirituality above God’s Law and desire for them.
This, as is many sins, was based in pride. They held people’s perception of them higher than God’s because they wanted to look good. And honestly, it’s easier to operate in this way because people can’t witness our every action or word and they certainly can’t know our every thought; however, God knows it all and He sees it all so it’s that much harder to live pleasing to the Lord than it is pleasing to man. And even further, the reward for living right according to God has eternal rewards that will be received in heaven, to where doing right for eye service to man has it’s momentary and fleeting reward of maybe accolades, likes, or follows.
Clean the Inside
In this section, Jesus specifically mentions paying attention to the inside and that the outside would be clean. These are a few bible verses that speak to this as well:
- And [Jesus] called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” (Matthew 15:10-11)
- For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:34b)
- To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. (Titus 1:15-16)
When you think of an illness, such as cancer or an autoimmune disease – the illness starts inside. It may be months by the time you notice outward symptoms, but the issue has already been stirring within. When you treat the illness within, the outer symptoms go away and the body is healthy both inside and out. And there may be times where someone doesn’t even realize they’re sick, maybe in the case of something like cancer, but when they go in for an annual physical and get blood work, it indicates something is wrong. The body on the outside seemed perfectly fine, both to the patient and the doctor, yet the bloodwork revealed something wrong.
In the same way, Jesus here is like the bloodwork to the Pharisees, who may or may not even have realized they had a serious internal issue to repent of and get healed from with God. Jesus so much wanted them to see the heart of the matter and stop living for the outer, temporal things, and live with the eternal things in mind, which was what matters to God; and in order to share that truth in love, Jesus had to point out their hypocrisy.
Dealing with Hypocrisy
Being faced with hypocrisy in our own lives is not easy at all, it’s a huge hit on our pride and requires humility before the Lord to deal with properly.
Is there anything in your life that although seems fine to everyone around you, Jesus is pointing out is not clean within?
Don’t dismiss that quickly. Sit with it and allow the Holy Spirit’s conviction to grieve you over your sin. And then repent and make the necessary changes, asking God to help you.
Take the Time
Next week in America, we’re going to be gathering for a Thanksgiving meal with family and friends. Take time to first cleanse the inner dish of your heart so that your thanksgiving to God will be genuine and not only a tradition done yearly for appearances or holiday’s sake, or based on what those around you think it should be. And regardless of the Thanksgiving holiday, the principle remains – Jesus desires for our hearts to be clean and pure before Him, which requires self-examination and full surrender to God.
Just as Jesus warned us about the health of the lamp of our body last week, this week is another spiritual health check. Jesus cares immensely about your inward state. So follow His lead and make it your prayer, like king David had when he prayed to God, create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)