He couldn’t believe that Jesus had accepted his invitation. And when Jesus did arrive, His Pharisee host “was astonished.” He marveled. He was seized with wonder. But not because he finally was up close and personal with the Man who had performed so many mighty works. Not because he was one-on-one with Him who taught not as others, but as one with authority. No, instead “the Pharisee was astonished to see that He did not first wash before dinner” (Luke 11:38).
Is it any wonder that Jesus got so choked with the religious elite? Theirs was a perverse piety. A false faith. A reprobate religion. Lots of good works but not much in the way of an authentic walk. And so Jesus calls the Pharisee on his misdirected amazement.
And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also? But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.”
(Luke 11:37-41 ESV)
There was protocol to be followed, didn’t Jesus know that? Did He not understand the difference between clean and unclean? Had He not grasped the importance of doing what needed to be done in order to satisfy the Levitical and Rabbinical law? What was wrong with Him?!?
But Jesus knew that this man was driven more by mechanics than meaning. That his self-cleansing was more a mindless routine than it was a catalyst for reflection. All he was concerned with was “the outside of the cup.” No regard for the filth on the inside. And so Jesus tells him, tithe from the inside out.
Giving alms was another act of piety which the religious elite took pride in. They made sure that anything they dropped in the plate was noticed by others. That any gesture of kindness shown toward “the less fortunate” was recorded for posterity. But Jesus didn’t seem to care very much what came out of their purse, if it wasn’t first matched by what came out of their person.
Give as alms those things that are within . . .
To be honest, I naturally find myself judging and distancing myself from the “religious right” of Jesus day. They are “them” and they is not me. But, to be honest, after identifying with the sinner-saved-by-grace in the Scriptures, the religious are the next group I should be most aware of. Though they are not what I once was, they can be those who I’ve now become. And so I need to take note when Jesus speaks to those who consider themselves righteous because of the right they are doing. I need to slow down and consider what Jesus says to those who have disciplined themselves to develop holy habits but have neglected the greater matter of cultivating a consecrated heart.
And so Jesus says, tithe from the inside out. Give first of your heart. Offer first of your soul. Render first fully of yourself before you tender a portion of your cash.
How easy it is to become smug with what we’ve determined to do for the LORD and ignore what He’s asked for from us. He seeks our heart before He’s impressed with our hard work. He desires the top place in our priorities list before He’s delighted with the good we claim to do in His name. He wants heaven-directed motives much more than are hard-earned money.
If my offering is limited to what I routinely put in the plate on Sunday morning, then I’ve missed His ask for my whole heart during the week. If I’m feeling good about myself because of what I do and not because of Who I desire, then my faith has faltered. If by my calculated actions alone I seek to honor the One who died for me, then I have forgotten what heaven pleasing worship really looks like.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
(Romans 12:1 ESV)
Oh to tithe from the inside out. To again offer first myself before offering next my money. To freely obey not because my works will maintain my righteousness, but because my heart seeks nothing more than to respond to Him for His righteousness credited to my account.
Tithing from the inside out . . . only by His grace . . . only for His glory!