Monday, February 11, 2008

What's really dirty?

Religious people can be some of the most annoying people. One time my little sister went to church on a Sunday morning, a good, bible-believing church and someone who didn’t know her came up to her and asked her why she was dressed so casually for church. My sister was so mad, she never went back there again.

Another guy I know that grew up in the church got so many stares at his tattered jeans that he decided to go to another church.

Many non-Christians never darken the door of a church because they’re afraid of being judged. I hate to say it but they’re partly right. They would be judged.

That religious judgmentalism is what Jesus runs into when a bunch of Pharisees and scribes come to see him in Galilee. The Pharisees notice that some of Jesus’ disciples don’t wash their hands before they eat. And so, trying to be helpful, not wanting Jesus’ disciples to get sick they politely ask Jesus a question.

Jesus goes off on them. They ask a question. He calls them hypocrites and makes judgments about their hearts. So who is the judgmental religious guy here?

Well, let’s take a closer look at what’s going on. The Pharisees noticed that some of Jesus’ disciples didn’t wash their hands. Well, I wonder if they noticed that Jesus was feeding thousands of people out of thin air in the wilderness, maybe that’s why they didn’t wash their hands. Did they notice that a great miracle worker was standing in front of them who had healed hundreds of people and who was going around homeless in order to help everyone? No. They asked him why his disciples didn’t wash there hands.

It’s as if your mother had slaved all afternoon to cook a meal for you and had set out the nice silverware and dishes. She’d poured your favorite drink and served your favorite meal. And as you sit down to dinner the first thing that you say to her is… “Did you wash your hands?” Or “you didn’t put my fork in the right place.” She’d be well within her rights to send you to bed with no dinner but with a new bruise instead.

Jesus seems to be overreacting here but he isn’t. It is hypocritical and superficial to judge others based upon your own rules while you disregard God’s rules. Nobody does this better than religious people. Religious people love to ignore God’s rules by insisting on their own rules. Even if you aren’t religious you can judge others based upon your rules rather than judging people by God’s rules.

So why do the Pharisees focus on their little rules and ignore the fact that Jesus is miraculously healing people, miraculously feeding people, and calling people to repentance? Because it’s easier to abide by the rules we make up. Here’s how most of us do righteousness: We take a look at what we’re already doing and make rules so that anybody who’s doing less than us is “a bad person.” And anybody who’s doing much more than us is “a religious nut.” That’s what the Pharisees were doing, they were making up their own rules of righteousness. Take an honest look at how you judge others. Do you judge others by your standards or by God’s standards?

Jesus is still trying to make the same point that we are looking at the wrong things in order to determine if a person is good or not. “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him."

But you say, “Actually Jesus, what goes into a person can defile them. Look at poor Heath Ledger. Look at the teens that died because of alcohol poisoning. Look at anyone who has ever been killed by poison.” Jesus is using your regular diet and habits as a metaphor for your spiritual condition. Usually you don’t eat poison. Usually you eat food. Food isn’t dirty. It’s not what makes you good or bad. Usually you also go to the bathroom. What comes out is dirty. So what goes in is not dirty but rather what comes out. The same thing is true spiritually. We are not bad people because of what has happened to us, what we’ve ate or what we’ve drank or even what we’ve watched. We’re sinful people because of what comes out of our heart. And on our own, what comes out of our heart, even the best things that come out of our heart are as dirty as what comes out into the toilet.

So if we judge ourselves by our own standards we can look down on others. But if we judge ourselves by God’s standards we fall short. We stink. Our best works stink. On our own, what comes out of our heart stinks as much as what comes out of…

Many times we do good works in order to impress God. We judge others to make us feel more worthy of God. We do good works in order to get out of owing God total obedience. We do good works in order to get out of owing God for our salvation. Doing good works can get you straight to hell. When we do good works to earn our salvation, to get God to owe us salvation we start congratulating ourselves and looking down on others and we start becoming immune to God’s grace.

So what are we supposed to do if the problem is with our heart? We could change what we eat or drink or watch but we can’t change our heart.

What's really dirty? It's not what we eat or drink or watch that makes us dirty? It's what comes out of our...heart that makes us really dirty.