While he was speaking, a Pharisee invited him to dine with him; so he went in and took his place at the table. The Pharisee was amazed to see that he did not first wash before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you. (Luke 11:37-41 NRSV)
All through the Gospels, we read of the Pharisees who follow Jesus everywhere. They are eager to find fault, to accuse him of blasphemy or other grievous acts, to criticize him, to question and trap him. In turn, Jesus was often correcting and scolding them. In spite of all this, I love that he still wanted to dine with them! Jesus ate with every type of person, it seems. What a gift we have in being welcome at his table, too.
Here we read about a Pharisee who found yet another problem with Jesus. The Pharisees had an elaborate ritual of washing before meals, including rules about how much water to use, where to put the water, and how to do the washing itself. Imagine how this host must have felt when Jesus didn’t bother with any of it! Jesus once again used his example to reveal what is truly important.
Jesus is more concerned with the inner cleanliness of our hearts and souls than any ‘outer washing’ we may do- those surface-level practices involving rules and rituals. We may be tempted to comply with outer practices rather than the deep purification of our inner selves. The laws and customs we choose to keep are certainly easier than to completely surrender our whole lives to God.
I remember one Sunday morning class in which our group was asked, “How does your life show you follow Jesus?” One man proudly replied, “I get up early on Sunday to attend worship services each week.” Yes, he was remembering the Sabbath. Yes, he was worshiping God. Yes, this dear man was choosing to heed these important commandments.
But is this what following Jesus is- sacrificing a few hours of sleep to worship him with regular attendance? Is giving a tithe or percentage of our income as our weekly offering all that God desires? No. We are called to so much more than these outer practices, the giving of our time and money. With his question, “Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?” Jesus reminds us that our entire being has been created by God and fully belongs to God.
Our worship should be a natural response- an outpouring of our gratitude, praise and love- for all that God has done. Jesus also tells the Pharisee, “give for alms those things that are within.” We are called to share so much more than monetary donations. We are to give all that we have, all that we are. We are called to be all that God created us to be, and to do all that we can, in love for God and one another.
Jesus is calling us to cleanse our hearts and souls, to wash ourselves clean with his love and forgiveness, and to integrate our inner faith and outer life as one.
Are you talking to ME?
Today Jesus is asking, “Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?”
In what ways might Jesus be asking you to grow in love for him and for others? Are there times when you like to believe that your regular worship, financial giving, or other outer practices are close enough to what God desires? In what new ways might you feed your soul, spend time with God, and surrender more of yourself in loving obedience? Do you sense a need to be inwardly washed anew? Is there a new way Jesus is asking you to follow him more fully? Does your outer life reflect your inner faith?
Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also?