“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. (Matthew 23:25-26, NIV)
I know a lady who would be a good candidate to appear on the TV show, “Hoarders”. She has been a collector of “stuff” for her entire adult life. And, since she throws almost nothing away, the stuff has taken over. The odd thing, though, is that the only place in her home not filled with piles of clutter is the corners. Apparently, when her kids were little, the family doctor told her that she could help her kids stay healthy by always cleaning the corners in her home. I guess his theory was that corners are often overlooked and can harbor dirt, dust and germs. Well, she took his advice to heart, and now the corners are the ONLY clean place in her home. In her mind, since the corners are clean, everything is O.K. I think she missed the point.
Her clean corners remind me of the lies of legalism. There are many people who believe they are living in a right relationship with God because they are doing all the right things. Maybe they regularly give to the church, volunteer in the community, read the right books, eat and drink the right things, regularly attend Sunday School, even scrub toilets in the church restrooms. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of those things, just like there’s nothing wrong with having clean corners in your home. But, if those things are done out of any motivation other than love for God, love for others and prompting by the Holy Spirit, then we are missing the point. When what we are DOING becomes the focus of our faith, it’s like we’re busy cleaning our corners but our back is turned to Jesus who is the only one who has the power to clean up the rest of our mess.