By Brian Waple
In Matthew 23:25-26, Jesus declares, “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too” (NLT).
That’s a pretty strong indictment! How often have you read Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees and thought, “Man, I’m sure glad I’m not like them.” But how often do we read this and take an honest look at what motivates us? I’m certainly not saying that we are “filthy,” or “full of greed and indulgence.” However, I’m sure there are times when it’s our own human nature (rather than prayerful consideration and discernment) that drives a decision or particular course of action. I think part of what Jesus is saying is that before we allow ourselves to take a step that may have serious consequences, we need to take a moment and discern what is driving our decision. It might be good to ask the question, “How much of my human nature am I allowing to make the decision?”
In his book The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness, Tim Keller uses Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians to illustrate what Keller calls the transformed view of self, or “simply thinking of myself less.” He shows that it’s often our pride that drives what we do and how we react, and it is our pride that makes us believe we need to perform to some standard to be validated in the eyes of men. Pride will drive greed and self-indulgence; pride will drive intolerance; pride will drive us to be critical; pride will make us selfish; pride will drive our desire to be accepted. But by putting our pride aside (that is, thinking of ourselves less), we can discover what it means to be open to where the Spirit is leading and be willing to see what God may be showing us.
Keller says, “In Christianity, the moment we believe, God imputes Christ’s perfect performance to us as if it were our own, and adopts us into His family. In other words, God can say to us just as He once said to Christ, ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’” As believers, God is already well pleased with us, and doesn’t require any pride-motivated performance to gain His approval.
It is by thinking of ourselves less that we can truly be open to the needs of others. It is by laying aside our pride that we can be open and present to God’s leading. And, in turn, it is by trusting in God’s faithfulness that we can be assured that the inside of our cup is just as clean as the outside.