By Sylvia Schroeder
“Rats.” I lift the glass from the dishwasher and hold it up against the light from the window. Spots mar its transparency. I wonder if my machine is on its last leg or if the problem is the new detergent I bought. Maybe I’m out of rinse booster, or could it be the way the glass was crammed in there? In the sun’s rays, dried-on droplets take away all sparkle. A dull film makes all of it look dirty.
In Matthew 23 Jesus cut to the heart of fake. He called religious leaders of the day hypocrites, blind guides, and whitewashed tombs. He exposed them for placing heavy burdens on people. He accused them of greed, self-indulgence, and robbery. He exposed showy practices that appeared oh-so-righteous, while internally their hearts were wicked. “You cleanse the outside of the cup and dish,” he said, “but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also” (Matthew 23:25–26 NKJV).
Spiritual blindness keeps us from seeing our inner dirt.
The Pharisees sought spirituality through external rites and outward forms of piety. Their religion was a pecking order of striving; being better, doing more, and looking best. Crazy ceremonial washings to obliterate accidental defilement became a means of judgment. Despite superficial betterment, their hearts remained filthy, like my spotty glass.
Although they studied about the Messiah, waited for his coming, when he did come they didn’t recognize him. Enemies of Christ, the religious leaders opposed him bitterly.
Can we be so enthralled with the trappings of Christianity, its fads and additives, that we neglect the person who changes us first inwardly and then outwardly? Is it possible that in checking off our do-for-Jesus boxes, we become blind to Jesus himself?
When I concentrate on how my Christianity looks to others or pull out my Christian measuring stick, I supplant the biblical order, and like a Pharisee I put my own laws into place. Jesus cares first about the purity of our hearts. His cleaning method is always inside out.
My right hand has a scar like an upside-down smile. I remember when it happened, like watching a video in slow motion. I was at the sink washing dishes, my hands obscured by suds. A ring from setting tea had left a circle around the inside of a glass, and I was cleaning it with a dishcloth. I slid my hand back and forth, scrubbing at that line inside the cup. The rim of the glass rode the space between my thumb and index finger. A chunk off the top of the goblet shattered into the water, and the glass sliced a curved moon on my hand. Before I felt the pain, I remember looking down at the reddening water.
Today as I hold my glass to the light, I remember how easy it is to clean the outside and ignore the inside. Jesus shines clearest through a life pure within and without. I stop to ponder why I do what I do, and for whom. I consider the pain of self-surrender to the Master Purifier and submit to the scrubbing he wants to do. With the stem of the glass still in my hand, I bow my head over the kitchen sink.
Memorized words of the psalmist come from my heart. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10 NKJV).
How clean is your cup?
Sylvia Schroeder and her husband care for missionaries world-wide with Avant Ministries. Captivated by God’s Word she writes with the perspective of someone who lived and raised four children overseas. Twelve grandchildren in her heart often wiggle onto her pages. She blogs at When the House is Quiet.
Photograph © Markus Spiske, used with permission