As Jesus was speaking, one of the Pharisees invited Him home for a meal. So He went in and took His place at the table. His host was amazed to see that He sat down to eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony required by Jewish custom. Then the Lord said to him, “You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and wickedness! Fools! Didn’t God make the inside as well as the outside? So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over. What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things. What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you love to sit in the seats of honour in the synagogues and receive respectful greetings as you walk in the marketplaces. Yes, what sorrow awaits you! For you are like hidden graves in a field. People walk over them without knowing the corruption they are stepping on.”Luke 11:37-44
After all Jesus had told them they still don’t get it. I laid the foundation in the last Gem for what follows in this one. Jesus made it clear to them in the discussion which ensued after they asked for a sign that He was the One who was to come. Despite the fact it was clear because He was performing the signs that the Word of God stated, the Pharisees and leaders wanted more. Hence Jesus launched into telling them the only sign they would be given was the sign that they need to repent (á la the sign of Jonah and the Queen of Sheba). With all that explained to them by Jesus, whom Luke refers to as the Lord, and then Jesus tells them they don’t have the [phos] of God but rather they are filled with darkness. He tells them to be careful because what they call “light” is actually darkness. At that point as we saw yesterday one of the Pharisees invited the Christ home. We would think it was to talk about the claim Christ has just made to them, that they are not filled with light but rather with darkness. If that had been said to me I would sure want to discuss what the speaker was meaning if I had invited him home. But once again we are in for another surprise. The very man who invited Jesus home gets side tracked by the fact that Jesus didn’t go through the ceremonial washing process.
Effectively Jesus says, you don’t get it do you? You are doing the same thing again. You are more concerned about your rituals and keeping up appearances than you are about truth. You pay more attention to the outside appearances than you do to inner truth. You clean the outside of the cup or dish (referring to the ritual cleaning they have just noted He didn’t practice) while inside, your cups are filthy, full of greed and wickedness. There He has done it again. Told them they are filled with darkness and wickedness. Their inner being is filled with darkness. He has just finished telling them that. That was the reason (assumedly) He was invited home. Now they confirm their state of mind by giving yet another example of how rotten to the core they are. They take special care to observe the outer things, what can be seen but they totally neglect the inner more important things. The appearance from the outside is “light” but the inside is total darkness.
In actual fact religious observance should take care of the unseen, inner things first. The outside appearance is the last matter to pay attention to. We are told in numbers of place in the Bible that man pays attention to outer things that are easily seen but God looks on the inside and is concerned about matters of the heart, the inner being. Putting the outer things before the inner things is foolish. How can God accept or bless anything that is just a shell or a veneer of cleanliness or apparent holiness when inside it’s full of corruption? All of this is made worse by the fact that the Pharisees are the very ones who know this can’t be sanctioned by God. They are the experts in the Law. They are the ones who have memorised what the Word of God said but conveniently buried the Truth under a pile of religious regulations. They majored on minors and allowed the important things (the majors) to go totally unnoticed.
Did God not make the inside as well as the outside. You have paid attention to the outside but totally forgotten the inside. There is a play on words here. Taking care of the inside could mean the inside of the cup or it could mean the inside of the man. Take care of the outside of the cup and take care of the outside of the man. But first deal with the inner things and the outer things will fall into line. Give to charity and do good, but take care of the heart and you will find you are clean all over. Jesus is clearly tying this all together.
There is much debate here as to whether Jesus’ is referring things within the cup or things within the man. I am not going to be drawn into the debate. I think He using one to mean the other. You work it out.
But more importantly notice what Jesus does. He continues the same theme with some ridiculous examples of how badly the Pharisees have wandered astray from the teaching of God. They truly have majored on minor trivial things and made them as though they were of prime importance. All to ensure “the outside looks right”. Woe to you. How tragic it will be for you! You Pharisees have badly missed the point. Jesus now uses an example that borders on the bizarre. How could this be? The sad thing about all of this is that it was actually true. The Pharisees and experts in the Law were careful to ensure that all the little rules were obey. So when it came to tithing everything was included.
“For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.”
Can you picture it? The Mishnah actually exempts dill from being tithed, but the Pharisees delighted in applying the principle of tithing to the nth degree in their misguided zeal. Hence they would literally sit and count out the tithe of 10% on the leaves of mint and dill and the seeds of cumin. Even when it was exempt from tithe. I am sure you are aware but I will say it anyway, mint and dill are important for their leaves. The very fine leaves are used to flavour cooking. The leaves can be broken off one at a time so therefore if you were to tithe on mint and dill you would have to tithe leaf by leaf. Cumin is very fine seeds used for seasoning. Again you would have to count the seeds in order to tithe on cumin. How ridiculous, sitting there counting out mint, dill and cumin when you have been told specifically in the Mishnah that it is not necessary, but your zealousness makes you do it anyway. But by doing that you overlook the matters of justice and love. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.
“He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”Micah 6:8
But the Pharisees chose to forget love and justice and concentrate on the mint, dill and cumin. Just as they chose to neglect the inside of the cup / soul or inner being in preference for cleaning the outside. After all that is the bit that everyone sees isn’t it? Well, no it’s not. There is One who looks specifically at the inside of each man (1 Sam 16:7).
Can you see why I have named this “arranging deck chairs on the Titanic”? Ignoring the love and justice in preference to counting mint, dill and cumin. Making sure you ceremonially wash your hands in order to be separated from a sinful world, when all the time the darkness of that sinful world is overflowing from your inner being. Like arranging deck chairs on the Titanic as I say. There is more to say on seeking the place of honour and being like graves in the field but I think I have said enough. You get the point I am sure. What is interesting in all of this is that the Pharisees didn’t get it. Despite Jesus hammering the point over and over again. Ah, the lengths we will go to sometimes to avoid the obvious.
Go put your creed into your deed.Ralph Waldo Emerson
The best way to succeed in life is to act on the advice we give to others.Anon
A man generally has two reasons for doing a thing. One that sounds good and the real one.J Pierpont Morgan
We have two kinds of morality side by side: one which we preach but don’t practice and another which we practice but seldom preach.Bertrand Russell
Consider how hard it is to change yourself and you’ll understand what little chance you have in trying to change others.Jacob Braude