Hunkered Down Devotion

Luke 11:37-44 (Voice)
37 A Pharisee interrupted His speech with an invitation to dinner. Jesus accepted the invitation and took His place at his table. 38 The Pharisee was offended that Jesus didn’t perform the ceremonial handwashing before eating—something Pharisees were fastidious about doing.
Jesus: 39 You Pharisees are a walking contradiction. You are so concerned about external things—like someone who washes the outside of a cup and bowl but never cleans the inside, which is what counts! Beneath your fastidious exterior is a mess of extortion and filth.
40 You guys don’t get it. Did the potter make the outside but not the inside too? 41 If you were full of goodness within, you could overflow with generosity from within, and if you did that, everything would be clean for you.
42 Woe to you, Pharisees! Judgment will come on you! You are fastidious about tithing—keeping account of every little leaf of mint and herb—but you neglect what really matters: justice and the love of God! If you’d get straight on what really matters, then your fastidiousness about little things would be worth something.
43 Woe to you, Pharisees! Judgment will come on you! What you really love is having people fawn over you when you take the seat of honor in the synagogue or when you are greeted in the public market.
44 Wake up! See what you’ve become! Woe to you; you’re like a field full of unmarked graves. People walk on the field and have no idea of the corruption that’s a few inches beneath their feet.

First things first about this passage – especially in this time when the importance of personal hygiene has been elevated, no one watching Jesus in this passage is frustrated because he didn’t was his hands before coming to dinner.  The ceremonial handwashing that Jesus forgoes was just that, ceremonial, and wasn’t about hygiene but about practice, tradition, and religious custom.  

Jesus makes the point, with a piercing illustration about a cup – cleaned on the outside, but dirty on the inside – that the Pharisee’s are focusing on all the wrong parts.  This passage uses the word fastidious or a form of it several times.  It means to be very attentive to and to be to be concerned about accuracy and detail.  

This sums up the Pharisee’s perfectly, they poured over every single line of the law, they focused on every aspect of it and worked to memorize it, to know it forwards and backwards. They were fastidious.  But they spent all their time cleaning the outside of their cups and left the insides untouched.  As Jesus said, that is the part that matters!  

While it is easy to vilify the Pharisee’s, I think it is better that we see them as a cautionary tale, because they fell into a trap that is appealing to many of us – the desire to look good or to appear righteous, special, pure, holy.  In that effort, the Pharisee’s spent all their time, vigorously washing their clothes, so to speak, keeping up appearances, with ceremonial handwashing and going through the motions without putting their heart into it.  But they never bothered to cleanse themselves by seeking justice and peace which is what the law and heart of God was actually calling them to do.  

What are we spending our time doing, cleaning our clothes or cleansing our bodies? Ceremonial handwashing or seeking justice?  

Sharing God’s Love,

Prayer: Lord, help us to be more concerned with the inside than the outside, more concerned with the heart than the appearance.  Guide us to seek your justice and peace not just the appearance of them.  Amen.

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