25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 “You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.
Jesus dealt with this same issue earlier in Matthew 15 and he describes better His point:
7 “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: 8 ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. 9 ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’ ” 10 After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand. 11 “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.” 12 Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?” 13 But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. 14 “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” 15 Peter said to Him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 Jesus said, “Are you still lacking in understanding also? 17 “Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? 18 “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19 “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. 20 “These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.”
Imagine if you had a beautiful chalice. It is made of pure gold and adorned with jewels and gems. It’s market value is in the thousands or millions of dollars. Many would most likely want to pick it up and take a sip from it or use it to serve their favorite drink. But what if all that came out of it was pitch tar? How valuable would it be then? Sure, some might see it from the outside, not knowing what is inside, and still see it as valuable. But those who would know its contents would not value it much at all. In fact, we might even shake our heads in disappointment. “It’s a shame,” we might say, that such a beautiful cup is filled with something so invaluable and disgusting. “It’s a waste,” we might think, realizing its potential for being such a wonderful chalice but recognizing it is wasted by its contents.
Turn this idea around and imagine an old styrofoam cup that is cracked and dirty that pours out pristine water which gives eternal life. The value of that cup would increase, would it not? Despite the outward appearance, once people learned of its contents they would value the cup all the more. So it is with our spiritual lives. It does not matter how we appear to others on the outside if we are rotten on the inside. It’s interesting how we are completely turned off by a dirty cup but we are more likely to trust what is inside a clean looking cup even if we do not know what is inside.
As Jesus describes the process of spiritual purification, He reveals to us the key: first cleanse the inside and the outside will automatically be clean. Too often we try to clean up on the outside thinking it will gain us acceptance into the Kingdom of God. We wear our “Sunday best” to church. We don’t curse around the pastor. We post on Facebook pics from all the church activities we attend. But what about those silent moments where we are stuck in our sinful thoughts? What about that secret sin we think nobody knows about? What about the argument you have with your spouse on the way to church? What about when you lost your temper with your children this past week when all they wanted was to spend time with you? We don’t let on that we have issues we need to sort out. I love what a pastor friend of mine always says, “If we showed up to church on Sunday and wore a label that listed all of our sinful issues, nobody would want to sit next to each other.” Isn’t that sad? Yet we expect everyone to be perfect…we expect ourselves to look perfect…and we don’t live life in reality, just with unreasonable expectations. We expect a clean cup to have something good to offer from the outside and the dirty cup gets ignored and stomped upon.