"When He had finished this talk, a Pharisee asked Him to dinner. He entered the house and sat down at the table. The Pharisee was shocked and somewhat offended when he saw that Jesus didn't wash up before dinner. But the Master said to him, 'I know you Pharisees burnish the surface of your cups and plates so that they sparkle in the sun, but I also know your insides are magotty with greed and secret evil. Stupid Pharisees! Didn't the One who made the outside also make the inside? Turn both your pockets and your hearts inside out and give generously to the poor, then your lives will be clean, not just your dishes and your hands,'" Luke 11:37-41 (The Message).
Every religion has a standard of right and wrong. The religion of the Pharisees was no different. Although they believed that they were worshipping and serving the God of Israel, there had been a slow and subtle change in their understanding of who He was and what He wanted.
From the earliest time of their history, God had revealed to them the nature of His righteousness - doing what is right because of who He is. He is 'gracious, compassionate, slow to anger and full of love and faithfulness' - Exodus 34:6. His laws reflected His nature. He expected them to treat each other the way He treated them.
Because of their refusal to obey His laws, over time they were punished again and again for their idolatry and injustice by war and exile. They came to believe that God was only pleased when they obeyed the many petty and trivial laws that were formulated to 'protect' His Law. The heart of their religion became legalistic and God was reduced to the level of 'rule-keeping' as the standard of righteousness.
Jesus came to reveal the heart of the Father and hence He clashed with religious leaders because, like all relgions, its devotees were ruled by fear. 'Break the rules and you fall foul of the god whom you are supposed to be appeasing by keeping them.'
Does it really matter to God whether we wash our hands before meals? For hygienic reasons, yes, but it makes no difference to the state of our hearts. What is it that really exposes what is in our hearts? Strangely enough, according to Jesus, it's what we do with our money. Since money is the power that drives the world, who owns our money and our attitude to it reveals what is really in our hearts.
Jesus insisted that we cannot serve two masters. It is either God or money that is in the control centre of our lives. The love of money drives our selfishness, greed and attitude to other people. If money is our master, we wll go to whatever lengths necessary to get it even at the cost of lives. If Jesus is our Master, money will be one of the currencies we use to make other people's lives better.
Isn't rule-keeping often a cover-up for wickedness in our hearts? Just like the Pharisee, we meticulously observe rules and rituals to appear 'righteous' but inside the 'cup' is the filth of greed we cannot hide from God. How do we break its power? Jesus said, 'Be a giver, and you'll become generous, like your heavenly Father.' Generosity will not save us, but it will go a long way to setting us free from the 'evil eye' that rules the world.