walk in the word
You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean” (Matthew 23:24–26, ESV).
Some well-meaning people want to characterize Jesus as quiet, gentle, compassionate, and mild. Which He sometimes was. Matthew 23, however, reveals a different side of Jesus—bold, confrontational, and righteous. Jesus always responded to people in the way that would do them the most good, even when it meant getting in someone’s face.
In this confrontation, Jesus addressed matters of the heart—issues of soul and faith. He exposed the spiritual laziness and hypocrisy of those unwilling to expend energy in loving God. Jesus likened this hypocrisy to a man who drinks from a beautiful cup, polished and shining on the outside, while the inside is filled with stench. Such a man drinks anyway, delighting in the appearance of the container while imbibing its filth.
Jesus didn’t mince words in describing the contents of the cup: “inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence” (23:25). This is a very bad combination. Greed conveys, “I can’t get enough. I must hold on to everything I have.” Self-indulgence adds, “I can’t be satiated. I have no restraint and consume all I have.” These two priorities feed off each other.
Which leads to a heart check: Do you always want more? Once you have it, must you consume it? Do you find yourself thinking, I’m living at the edge. I am existing paycheck to paycheck, and I like it this way. I spend everything I make and a little more all the time. I could change. I could cut back. But I won’t. These are the common struggles of a person lazy in matters of the heart.
If you see shades of the Pharisees’ hypocrisy in your own soul, consider Jesus’ remedy: “You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean” (23:26). Only once in this discourse does He use “Pharisee” singular, as if the laser of His words is seeking the individual who is open to the truth and piercing his condition.
Essentially Jesus was saying, “How can you not see this is wrong? You meticulously clean the exterior while lazily ignoring the internal filth. You’re not willing to expend the effort for matters unseen.”
Here is the hard, heart truth: The real you is who you are when no one can see you. When others might be watching, you probably tend to optimize your appearance. But what you do when no one is watching—that’s who you truly are.
Who can hear Jesus’ words and not feel convicted? Perhaps you feel resistance rising up and prompting you to think, Why do I have to consider right now? I don’t want to think about it. Be careful—that’s hypocritical apathy, exhibiting laziness in matters of the heart. It’s evidence of being stuck and not caring enough to admit it, feeling deeply indifferent about your innermost being while pursuing a superficial life. It is a tragedy to nurse hypocrisy.
In such moments of spiritual conviction, we can either squirm away, distracting ourselves as quickly as possible, or submit to the Lord. It’s not up to us to clean our own souls; it is up to us to acknowledge the filth within.
If the exterior of the cup represents your public image while the interior of the cup represents the real you, what does Jesus want to show you about the condition of your soul?
What specific evidence of hypocritical laziness do you see in your life? How do you sense God calling you to greater care over matters of the heart?
Lord, far too often I fret over appearances while neglecting my heart. I’m sorry. Please help me to prioritize what matters to You and not to care so much about how I look to others. Thank You that You love me too much to leave me drifting into laziness of the heart. Thank You for Jesus’ wake-up tone, just what I needed to hear. Show me specific sin in my soul, and please continue Your sanctifying work in my heart. Thank You that Your grace awakens me, cleanses me, and gives me hope. In Jesus’ powerful name I pray, amen.
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