37 And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat.
38 And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner.
39 And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.
40 Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?
41 But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you. Lk. 11:37-41
Verse 41 is an interesting and extremely important scripture for us as believers, and it is what I want us to consider today. Early on, however, let us realize that this is a passage of scripture which one might easily fail to get the gist of. The first part says, “But rather give alms of such things as ye have…” and on reading this one might think Jesus was urging us to give away our money and our material things.
But that was not what Jesus was saying here. Rather, He was talking about the profoundest work that needs to happen in a man’s life – the work of the cross deep in his heart.
In a nutshell, Jesus was saying that the transformational work that needs to be done in our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit is greater than anything we might do on the outside in pleasing God.
Indeed, He was saying something of even greater significance. The implication of what Jesus was saying in this scripture was that this inner work of transformation is the only obligation that is required of us in pleasing God.
Notice the word “give” in this verse. This is the pivotal word. When Jesus says, “Give alms…” it points to the fact that we need to surrender something in our lives. And Jesus declared that when we surrender that thing, lo and behold, “… all things are clean unto you”!
The minute we surrender that thing, our obligation to God is over! God’s mathematics with us is incredibly simple.
In other words, there is a singular area in our lives in which alone God is pleased. Anything else that we do is pleasing to God also; but God accepts it only in as far as it is founded or based on that singular thing that God desires us to surrender to Him.
I believe the thing that God wants us to surrender is our will. Everything that we have on the inside of us is bound up in our will. When Jesus urges us to “rather give alms of such things as ye have”, it implies to surrender our inner will and desires.
But, pray, surrender to what? We are to surrender our will to the work of the cross.
Why would God want us to surrender our will to Him? Let us first see what God has to say about the human will.
“… your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.”
Well, there. There is our will. That is who we are on the inside. No matter how good we look on the outside, that is who we are on the inside, if God is not doing a work in us. It is a sickening sight that God beholds when He looks upon the human heart. And that is the thing that bothers God – the “ravening and wickedness” in us.
We all know what wickedness is, but what about “ravening”?
‘Ravening’ speaks of voraciousness, and it refers to the many insatiable desires that have such a stranglehold on our lives. Left on its own, the flesh would eat up everything in its path, including the very ground it was standing on!
If it were us, we would deal with this ‘human’ problem in the most efficient manner possible: we would dispose of it. Chuck it out of sight. But because of the great love that He has for us, God does not do that. On the contrary, He wants to deal with that “inward part” of our lives. He desires to set us free.
But man does not really love God, nor the things of God. He loves self more than he loves God. But man also knows that God requires something of him, so he creates a smokescreen, to try and deceive God. He creates a beautiful religion. He creates a rigorous array of principles, laws and by-laws, habits, etc to try and deceive God.
We cannot please God by carrying a wooden, silver or even a golden cross on a part of our body. We cannot even please Him by preaching or singing to Him. This is simply because Jesus said we are to “rather give alms of such things as ye have”, which talks of the things that are bound up in our will, which are the only things that we have in us.
‘Giving alms of such things as ye have’ is a far greater and incredible responsibility than anything one might do in the natural. If, for example, I have anger, nothing I do would please God in the Spirit more than if I allowed Him to deal and remove that anger in me.
I am sure that the man who can die to self is a far greater testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit than the most powerful preacher who has not allowed such a work to take place in his heart.
We have people who do all kinds of activities for God, but who are unaware that what pleases God is the sacrifice of a humble spirit upon which He can do a transforming work. We are to allow the cross to do a deep work in us, to change us, in the Spirit.
In their day, the the Pharisees had set in place many procedures and rules of conduct which made one to appear holy on the outside. Washing one’s hands before eating was one of these rules.
On this particular occasion, Jesus decided to eat without washing His hands. The Pharisee who had invited Jesus for dinner was aghast on seeing Jesus begin to eat with unwashed hands because his idea of holiness consisted in washing one’s hands. But Jesus had not come to fulfill what people thought made one holy. Jesus had come to do God’s will. He was therefore more bothered with what constituted holiness in God’s sight.
Jesus probably did not even say “Grace”. There are people who are very concerned about such things. Giving thanks for food is good and biblical, but it is not God’s yardstick for holiness.
Being holy means being clean on the inside, in our hearts. That is not an assignment that we can take lightly. It is a responsibility that requires us to press hard to the cross and to submit and re-submit our lives on the altar. That is why the Apostle Paul said, “… I die daily” (1 Cor. 15:31). Paul carried his cross daily.
Only then can our lives be identified with Christ’s in His suffering and death, and only then can we carry His image and character in us.
[Below: The new Musoma-Mwanza super highway that runs along Lake Victoria]