“But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.” (Luke 11:41 NIV)
Jesus had already had a busy day. He’d performed an exorcism and spent time teaching. While he’d been speaking, a Pharisee had invited him to eat dinner. But Jesus ignited a controversy when he didn’t wash up before taking his seat at the table.
Being “pure” was a big deal to the Pharisees, so they would wash both themselves and their eating utensils in ritual baths. Some taught that it was important to keep the outside of the cup clean, while others focused on the inside.
Jesus sidesteps their debate altogether by shifting the focus to the contents of our cup. It’s not just about being clean, inside or out, but it’s about the quality of what’s inside. In the comparison, he leaves open the question whether he is talking about what’s within our cup or within our heart. One is tied to the other. You can’t have good wine and a sour heart.
Jesus then says, what matters isn’t the condition of your cup but your willingness to share what’s inside. What defines our cleanliness isn’t the state of our cups, inside or out, but the abundance of our generosity. Instead of focusing on keeping yourself clean, what matters is giving away your good wine, just as he demonstrated earlier at the wedding at Cana. This is the best antidote to the greed that leads to death. What is within our cup reflects what is within our heart. An empty cup equals a full heart. Surprisingly, when the cup is empty, we arrive home and find our best self: the very person God created us to be.
In what ways do we allow our faith to become focused on keeping ourselves clean? How might you change your focus to the contents of the cup instead of the cup itself?
Look for a way this week to share the contents of your cup with a stranger or someone outside of your daily circle.
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