My Gramma was an amazing cook. Her roast fell apart in your mouth. Her pies were the perfect blend of crisp, tender crusts and home-grown fruits. For each meal, she heaped the table to overflowing with different vegetables from their garden. I’m sure she collapsed in exhaustion for a week after we left!
After the delicious meals, my mom stood over us kids and made us wash all the MANY dishes. Since there was no dishwasher in the tiny red, pink, and white kitchen, we had to wash and dry every. Single. Dish. By hand. We even had to wash and dry flimsy vegetable bags by hand. Ugh.
I think at one point, we might have gotten a little sloppy in our dish-washing, because Gramma told us about a relative who only washed the top sides of her plates and bowls. Apparently, the bottom sides were dirty, too, and when all were stacked together, the plates and bowls arrived at the table for the next meal in a hideous state of old-food crustiness. It didn’t matter that the top sides were clean when they were put away. They came out of the cupboard in a most disgusting condition.
Apparently, Jesus saw a similar problem in His day, too. The Pharisees did a great job of keeping their outsides clean, while neglecting the filth on their insides. He thought the result was equally revolting.
“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites!
For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish,
but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence!
You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish,
and then the outside will become clean, too.”
—Matthew 23:25-26 (NLT)
The religious teachers and Pharisees had mastered the art of appearing to be righteous. They gave 10% of all they had…even weighing out the herbs grown in their gardens to make sure they didn’t miss anything. They knew how to make long, impressive prayers that made the “sinners” cringe in unworthiness. They memorized entire books of the Torah.
The dark side of this apparent “righteousness” was ugly. They made pledges to God of all they owned so that they would not have to provide for their ailing parents. They tithed on their herbs, but made life hard for the widows and orphans. Their loud prayers hid self-righteous pride. Their arrogance blinded them to seeing the long-awaited Messiah, even when they were face to face! They valued position and prestige so much that they crucified their Savior because He threatened the status-quo.
It is sometimes hard to relate to these Pharisees in today’s culture. At the same time, it is easy to point the finger at their hypocrisy without seeing how easily we follow in their footsteps. Let’s update the scenario a couple thousand years. Here’s a take-two on the above paragraphs….
The church-attending Christians and Pastors had mastered the art of appearing to be saved. They gave 10% of all their income to the church. They knew what kind of prayers to pray when called upon. They even had large passages of the Bible committed to memory.
The dark side of these “saved” people was ugly. They pledged their lives to “Christian service”, but they lacked compassion for the people they served. They tithed on their gross income, but failed to care for the single-mom in “inappropriate” clothing or engage the new family at church. Their pride that blinded them to their own sins. Their arrogance blinded them to those who didn’t fit their pre-conceived ideas of “Mr. & Mrs. Christian”. They were so devoted to position and prestige that they fought any competitors…both inside and outside of their church.
When we see the Pharisees’ sins listed in twenty-first century terms, it really stings!!
- How many times have I been the modern Pharisee who overlooks the poor?
- Or who fails to look deeply at my OWN sin?
- Or who looks down on someone who doesn’t dress like me?
- Or who focuses so much on appearances that I ignore the insidious sin within me?
Jesus told His disciples:
‘…unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” —Matthew 5:20 (HCSB)
Oh, how humiliating it is to see our selfish pride exposed to the light of Christ!!
Let us stop being like the Pharisees!
Let us be like Jesus!!
“Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit,
but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.
Everyone should look out not [only] for his own interests,
but also for the interests of others.
Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus,
who, existing in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage.
Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave,
taking on the likeness of men.
And when He had come as a man in His external form,
He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death-even to death on a cross.”
—Philippians 2:3-8 (HCSB)
Jesus asks us to be humble servants of our fellow man.
Jesus asks us to obey Him.
It sounds simple, but we need the Holy Spirit to help us on this endeavor. Facing our own ugliness is painful and is not for the faint of heart. But as Jesus cleanses us from our sins, we experience indescribable freedom and joy!
Let’s stop focusing on appearances while neglecting our hearts.
In humility, let’s ask Jesus clean up the inside AND the outside!!