Inward Purity... Not Outward Cleanliness
In Matthew chapter 15 we find that Jesus’ teaching is once again unconventional, and as usual, goes against the grain of the bristly Pharisees. In these verses Jesus is stressing the importance of inner purity over outer cleanliness – and this is raising more than just a few eyebrows. The concept was new for many people, for traditionally, the sorted secrets of the heart were no measure to the outward actions of the hands. But Jesus said, “Not so!” It’s the evil in our heart that keeps us from a holy God. And Jesus said…
For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all other sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands could never defile you and make you unacceptable to God. ~ Matthew 15:19, 20
Inward purity... not outward cleanliness. This concept took on a new light for me when I was a young Mom. And as usual, it happened in a most unusual way. Bear with me as I share a bit of my journaling rant from back then…
Sometimes I wonder why I vacuum. The dirt never seems to stay in the bag. I am convinced that at night, while I sleep, all of the dust, lint, and food particles make their way back up the hose and go on a nighttime pilgrimage to their homeland. I know this, because, without fail, the day after I vacuum, the carpet looks exactly as it did before all my work. Having three kids doesn’t help. “Don’t walk on the carpet with dirty shoes!” is the perpetual cry for all Mothers. We remember the last time we scooped up a lonely shoe from the middle of the room – complete with grass and dirt. No. This is more than just a “cry”. It’s a “battle cry”!
But this thought stopped me the other day… ‘What am I actually saying here?’ Besides the obvious call for personal hygiene, what else is coming through? Could the message also be, ‘Before entering that place where you can feel totally at home and unconditionally loved, you’d better first be ‘clean enough’ or ‘good enough’ (there’s that ‘outward’ thing again). Don’t get me wrong. I value a clean house as much as the next Mom. But I value dirty children more…
I’m so glad God feels this way too. He looks deeper – past my attempts to brush myself off with self-righteous hands, wearing religious gloves. He looks at my heart. And this is the best part of all. While I was still dirty in my sin, God allowed me to enter His spotless Presence. Without apprehension, He welcomed me – knowing full well that the ‘white carpet’ of His Glory would completely clean the dirty sneakers of this, His precious child.
I like the way the Apostle Paul put it in his letter to the Philippians. In verse 9 of chapter 3 he said,
...I no longer count on my own goodness or my ability to obey God’s law, but I trust Christ to save me. For God’s way of making us right with Himself depends on faith. ~ Philippians 3:9
Purity before God. My inward cleansing only occurs as I accept Jesus’ outward actions… when He took my sin-stained soul to the Cross.
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