Kate’s post yesterday reminded me of some verses our Bible Study group was discussing in the book of Luke yesterday. Jesus makes this statement after a Pharisee criticizes Him for failing to perform the ritual washing before a meal:
“Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools!…For you tithe mint and rue and every herb and neglect justice and the love of God.” Luke 11:39-42
The Scribes and Pharisees were concerned with outer appearances. They wanted to look good by following all the religious rules, while inside they were selfish and unchanged. In another place Jesus calls them whitewashed tombs: looking good superficially, but spiritually dead. Their faith was useless to them and to others.
Here’s how the apostle James describes a living faith:
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27
It’s an easy trap to fall into. We may go to church, tithe, attend Bible Study and serve at every church event, but have we allowed God to change us on the inside? Do we feel compassion for the least of the least–or do we blame them for their situation? Do we give sacrificially to the needy? Or would we rather save our resources for our own benefit? Do we feel true anguish for souls who are being lost? Or do we secretly believe they are only getting what they deserve? Like most people, I struggle with these issues every day.
I’ve been told that the actual meaning of the Greek word for repent is to “turn your guts around.” That’s a real inner change, not an intellectual exercise or acceptance. As Kate said, at the gates of heaven, God won’t ask you how good you looked on the outside. He’ll want to know your heart.
“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7