“But the Master said to him, ‘I know you Pharisees burnish the surface of your cups and plates so they sparkle in the sun, but I also know your insides are maggoty with greed and secret evil. Stupid Pharisees! Didn’t the One who made the outside also make the inside? Turn both your pockets and your hearts inside out and give generously to the poor; then your lives will be clean, not just your dishes and your hands.’” Luke 11:39–41 (msg)
Jesus criticized the Pharisees for being too focused on image management. If I’m honest, I’ll admit that I, too, worry about appearances. But what is the antidote for superficiality? According to Jesus, it’s self-examination and generosity—to turn our hearts and our pockets inside out.
Too often, we rewrite the Bible in our heads. What will make our lives clean? Avoiding watching certain television shows or movies? Sending our kids to private school? Voting a certain way? Only listening to Christian music? As the New Living Translation renders verse 41: “So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor.” We clean up our hearts by engaging in the spiritual practice of giving.
Giving breaks the strongholds of fear and worry. When we are generous, we wade into the abundant flow of God’s grace. When we give without thought of what we’ll receive in return, we reflect, with astonishing accuracy, divine generosity. We declare that our fear of scarcity will not rule our lives. We gain insight into how God feels giving to us. Is it possible that He delights in bestowing good gifts on His children? Jesus asks us to give generously to the poor—that is, to give to people who cannot repay us. But I think Jesus knew that they could give us something worth far more. The poor have much to teach us about faith in the midst of suffering, about what it means to trust God.
FAITH STEP: Today, give a generous gift to someone in need. Ask God to direct you in this.
Written by Keri Wyatt Kent