Cleaning the Dishes
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean."
As a father and husband, I tend to focus too much on the outward behavior of my wife and children rather than focusing my efforts on their hearts. Proverbs 4:23 says, "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." In short, the heart is the starting point for everything that flows out of us, good or bad. If the heart of your spouse, your children, or yourself is not the target of your efforts, then you are largely wasting your time.
There is an old joke about a defiant little boy who was in church with his mother and would not sit still. He kept standing up in the pew. His mom kept saying "Sit down." He would sit down for a few minutes and get back up again. This happened several times. His mother, aggravated, put her hand on the top of his head and pushed him down. The little boy sat fuming. He looked at his mom and said, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I’m standing up on the inside.”
A good performance does not necessarily mean it comes from a good heart. The motivation may be fear of retribution or just sheer manipulation. The true goal is a changed heart that shows itself in loving and compassionate outward behavior. The Pharisees were great performers of their religious duties but their hearts were far from God. In fact, their hearts were so far off that Jesus said they were actually children of the Devil (John 8:44). Their "good performance" mattered not in the eyes of Christ.
If we focus too much on "cleaning the outside of the cup" we will never see true transformation, for even a dog can be taught to behave well. As parents we need to invest the time it takes to train our children's hearts by engaging in meaningful, two-way conversations to apply the Word of God to their lives. As spouses the same is true, for how can we serve each other well if we never get to know what is in each other's heart? As individuals, we need to remember that man looks on the outside but God looks at the heart (1 Sam 16:7). We may be able to fool one another with a "clean outside", but we can never fool God.
"First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean."
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