Out of the Heart
Heavenly Father, I want to live honorably, love generously and serve graciously. I need Your empowering for that.
Consider: "We may not follow the purity codes of ancient Israel, but are our hearts, our thoughts and intentions, and the casual words we utter, telling us that our own purity is less than complete? If so, what are we doing about it?" (N. T. Wright).
One of the benefits of working in other cultures, as I do, is seeing your own culture through their eyes. We are often blind to the erroneous or at least disproportionate presuppositions and values of where we come from. The Pharisees, in the earnestness that brought them chasing Jesus all the way from Jerusalem, were blind to theirs (14). Dedicating assets to God's work was a worthy act for a Jew, but what were the consequences of this for their other responsibilities? And what were their motives? Jesus gets to the heart of the matter by suggesting that some of them were giving to God to avoid obligations closer to home, obligations spelled out in the foundational commandments (Exod. 20:12). In 21st century China, where there is no central financial support for the aging, the government has become very concerned about younger people moving away from their families and adopting consumerist values, which results in the neglect of the aging. The government has now issued new guidelines on "filial piety"--the obligation to care for your parents.
The greater importance of inner purity over external traditions has even more significance for Jesus and his Jewish hearers. He deliberately calls the crowd to him (10) for what may well be the most significant thing they hear him say: my kingdom way of grace will replace the Pharisees' approach to the traditions of law-keeping. In Jesus' new kingdom there need be no unclean people--grace is offered to Gentiles, slaves, even bleeding women, to overcome their distance from God because all are one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:26-29). Heart motivation that comes from a living relationship with God is the most important thing.
We need to pause and remember that the risen and ascended Christ is praying for us (Heb. 7:25). What one thing do you seek his grace to change in your heart?
Father, I can only endorse the words of the chorus, "Change my heart, oh God. Make it ever true. Change my heart, oh God. May I be like you" (Vineyard Music).