Luke 12:40ish+ 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. I’ve had it with you! You’re hopeless, you Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but manage to find loopholes for getting around basic matters of justice and God’s love. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required.
So challenging, this story. First, the host of the party is “somewhat offended” that Jesus doesn’t wash up before dinner. Isn’t it frustrating when Jesus doesn’t do what we think He ought to do? When He insists on defying our expectations and ignoring our social sensibilities? It’s so frustrating when He doesn’t live inside our definition of “decently and in order.” His failure to wash His hands becomes a teaching moment in which He reveals that all is not as it appears in the life of the established religious order of the day. “Frauds,” He calls them. Why is that? Because they aren’t giving to the poor.
Interesting business, here, because they are tithing. In fact, they’re so concerned with tithing that they keep fastidious records of their giving. But Jesus tells them (in fact, it seems he may even be yelling a bit) that giving money to the temple while ignoring the needs outside of it? Not okay. He tells them that if they will open their hearts and their wallets to the needs of the poor – and not just the needs of the church – that they will find clean lives. Blessing.
Yesterday, like many other days of my life, I went to Costco. On the way out of the parking lot, I passed people holding signs on almost every corner. Seriously, with the unemployment rate in Bend hovering near the 20% mark, these corners have become some of the most valuable real estate in our city. I was able to ignore, ignore, ignore…until I got to one corner where a woman was standing with her son. He was maybe nine years old and I think he had been there a long time because he was working really hard to get all the garage sale and “Have You Seen My Dog” signs on the telephone pole organized. Imaginary and involuntary images filled my head of my own 9-year-old, standing with me on a corner, trying to keep himself busy and probably hoping like crazy that none of his friends from school drive by. I thought of all the times I’ve told hurting people, “We give money as a church to social agencies and so you’ll have to go to one of those for help .” In my mind, it makes sense that I give my 10% and then my name is recorded along with the rest of my church as someone who “cared for the poor.” But every once in awhile, my ears will open up to the yelling of a God who may not be a well-mannered dinner guest, but He’s an excellent Father to boys with no where to go but the corner outside of Costco.
The story ends like this: “You’re hopeless, you religion scholars! You took the key of knowledge, but instead of unlocking the doors, you locked them. You won’t go in yourself, and won’t let anyone else in either.” As soon as Jesus left the table, the religion scholars and Pharisees went into a rage. They went over and over everything he said, plotting how they could trap him in something from his own mouth.
Worst dinner party ever. Best revelation I’ve had in a long time. Thank You, Jesus, for showing me myself in this story and for shaking me out of my complacency and comfort. You are good.