“But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you.” – Luke 11.41For the past four eSights, we have been looking at the first part of the dialogue here between Jesus and the leadership of Israel. This week I’d like us to turn our attention to Jesus’ mention of giving that which is “within” as charity, and thus, “all things” would thereby be made clean.
We have discussed, from four different perspectives, why a religious system or environment that places more emphasis and importance on the outside of people’s cups, rather than the inside of people’s cups, is dangerous and religiously and relationally destructive. We have seen, based on four different reasons, how damaging an outward, external, performance-based, behaviorist emphasis and focus can be. In contrast, we have also seen the life-giving, intrinsic ability an environment that places greater importance and emphasis on what is taking place on the insides of people, their hearts, has as well. With this background, notice this week how Jesus drove the point home. His message to this Pharisee is to focus on that which is with and all things, both the things that are within as well as those which are without will be clean. How do you get the cup clean? The irony is twofold. Forget about the outside and focus on the inside. BUT, forget about getting yourself clean as well, and just give everything you do have away!!! Clean or dirty, stop focusing on yourself and start focusing on giving to others! This approach, according to Jesus, will accomplish the cleansing we desire, while our attention is focused in an entirely different direction. Stop worrying about getting clean and just go help someone!
I know this raises some questions. First, I’m not saying that “getting clean” isn’t important. What I am saying is that the kingdom is many times very messy first. It’s only when we stop worrying about whether we ourselves are measuring up to being “clean,” or we stop analyzing how others are measuring up to our own “clean” standards, and we simply start giving away whatever we do have, clean or dirty, to help others?only then do we really start experiencing what the kingdom calls “clean.” You see, in an outwardly focused, external, performance-based religion, sometimes we get misfocused on what I like to call false pollutants. We make a big deal for ourselves and for others out of the externals. But the “clean” that the kingdom wants to give us, is too often not about externals. It’s about the conversion from the pollutant of self-centeredness to the purity of other-centeredness. The real pollutant that the kingdom wants to uproot and take out of our lives as followers of Jesus is the pollutant of focusing on ourselves rather than on the needs of others. A person can be very religious, but be doing all of the external, outward stuff only out of concern for changing their “salv-a-meter” from the “lost” position to the “saved.” (I wrote about this at the beginning of this year in the eSight about “being good” vs. “doing good”; you may want to check that out as well, if you’re scratching your head right now.) Jesus spoke of this in other places as well:
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.—Luke 9.24
If your focus is on yourself, it’s no good. This is precisely what Jesus is endeavoring to save us from.
And this leads me to my final thought this week on giving away to others whatever you have, clean or dirty, as “charity.” (Remember, you don’t have to get all cleaned up for God to be able to use you to bless others. His blessing others through you is the very thing that cleans us up.)
The Greek word here for charity is Eleemosune. And the best way for me, I think, to share with you the nuance of this word’s meaning is to translate it into the phrase “disinterested benevolence.” This is the very essence of what God is. It’s one of the most powerful qualities of His love. Disinterested benevolence is kindness given to others, with no interest in personal reward or what you may get back in return. It’s giving just to give. This is most clearly shown in the most well-known but also most misunderstood verse in the Bible, John 3:16.
God so loved that He gave. He gave everything He had, with no thought of getting anything back for Himself. It’s a giving with no strings attached! It’s giving for the sake of giving. It’s a completely other-centered, selfless style of giving. (I encourage you to also take advantage of the presentation on our website entitled Love, Give, Believe for further explanation of this concept. I believe you can find it on our Sermon of the Month page. If not, email me and I’ll send it to you.) It’s what Jesus was referring to when He said to “give, expecting nothing in return” (Luke 6:35). It’s what Jesus exemplified when He healed ten lepers (Luke 17), and even though only one came back and said “thank you,” they were all healed nonetheless.
But how do we give away what’s inside of ourselves, clean or dirty, in the spirit of the disinterested benevolence that is the very heart, soul, and foundation of this new kingdom? Well, in short, we can’t. All you can do is first, let go of trying to clean yourself up from the outside in, and second, place all of your effort on seeing, understanding, and believing in God’s disinterested benevolence toward YOU! Because when, and only when, His love for you reaches your heart, love in your heart will be awakened for those around you. You can’t exercise disinterested benevolence toward others by simply trying to. (If this were possible, you wouldn’t need a Savior at all.) What we need is to encounter God’s disinterested benevolence for ourselves. To see it and believe it! To embrace it! To bask in it! To walk? no, run ?in the expanse of it! For when this happens, by God’s disinterested benevolence toward us, disinterested benevolence toward others will be awakened making us . . . Clean!
We only love, because He first loved us. – 1 John 4:19.
Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. For whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. – 1 John 4:7,8.
And where do we find God’s disinterested benevolence shining forth in its clearest rays?
Calvary. What I am convinced we must see is God’s disinterested benevolence, as it’s revealed on the Cross, for anything inside of us to become clean. But once it does, we will also desire to no longer live for ourselves, but for Him who loved us so selflessly, and we will desire to live for everyone else too as we embrace the value and worth that Calvary also ascribes to them, as well. This is what it means to be clean from the inside out. To actually care about and live for the benefit of others over and above one’s self. In encountering the giving heart of God, His disinterested benevolence, as revealed through the cross of Calvary, we cease to be so focused on ourselves and we begin to live the life of giving away to others whatever we have, clean or dirty, to help and to bless them.
This is getting clean from the inside out. And it’s what Jesus was all about.
Well, once again, I think I’ve given you enough to ponder for this week.
Keep basking in God’s disinterested benevolence toward you this week as revealed through the cross of Calvary. Let it change how you interpret everything you previously thought the cross was all about. Keep living in that love and loving like Christ.
I love you guys. I’ll see you next week. Go build the kingdom.