Alms From Within

“‘And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you”(Luke 11:39-41 ESV).

Friday’s post, What’s On Your Mind?, came out late as I neglected to change the scheduled time from AM to PM. I apologize for any inconvenience. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, please go back and do that before your read this post. While this post does stand on its own, Friday’s post will make today’s, perhaps, a little deeper.

When it comes to holiness, we put too much emphasis on the externals of behavior. And while that is important, it really needs to come as an outflow of what’s inside. This is why Christ had to die; we will NEVER be able to live up the behavioral expectations of the Law. Even if we managed to conform to some of the Law through our own effort it wouldn’t be sufficient. Every effort we could make would come from the flesh; and “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8 ESV). We are not transformed from the outside in; we are transformed from the inside out!

The Pharisees, as a whole, were concerned primarily with the outside. So when one of them asked Jesus why He didn’t wash before dinner as was their custom, He responded strongly. He made a point that holiness begins internally, and He didn’t sugar-coat any of it!

He pointed out that the Pharisees made a big deal about the outward, how they loved being perceived as holy and being respected in the community, but neglected the more important things like “justice and the love of God” (Luke 11:42 ESV). In Matthew 6, part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus didn’t specifically call out the Pharisees, but I’m sure that everyone knew about whom He was speaking. “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:1-3 ESV).

In Matthew 5, Jesus took the Law and made it’s requirements even more stringent. He said that the thoughts of our heart break the Law just as much as as if we outwardly transgress the commandments. He wanted to strengthen the fact that no one is without sin, as Paul related in Romans 3:23, so that they would recognize their need of a Savior!

Looking back to our text, Jesus told us that we should “give as alms those things that are within”. What does that look like to the mindful disciple? I believe that it involves “cleaning the inside of the cup”, maturing in Christ through the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit. It means that we focus, first and foremost, on having the mind of Christ, because “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:14-16 ESV emphasis mine).

When who we are becomes fully wrapped up in who He is, then the inside of the cup is clean. Then “everything is clean for [us].”




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