Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "We Praise Thee O God"1 (Lyrics)
Matthew 23:25-26 – 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. (NIV)
This spring, we were able to install a Toyo stove — a small oil furnace — in our home. This new addition meant that during the shoulder seasons, spring and fall, instead of trying to regulate the wood stove, as the temperatures vary so greatly throughout the days and nights, we could keep the house at a steady temperature. So far, it has been great.
Running the Toyo also presented me with the opportunity to give the wood stove a much needed inspection and cleaning. Emptying the ash, checking the bricks, the damper, and the seal, scrubbing its glass-fronted door of layers of soot was a rewarding experience. The stove looked so neat and tidy when I was finished, ready for another cold winter. And yet, the one most important thing was not yet done: cleaning the stove pipe. If the pipe is not cleaned of the deadly and unseen creosote which builds up as the fire burns, a devastating chimney fire can be ignited and bring about the loss of life and home. Remembering this, I let my local chimney sweep know that I needed his services.
The Pharisees in today's Scripture needed to clean their stove pipes too. Wrong views concerning religious tradition and ritual had caused their lives to accumulate layers of sinful attitudes, thoughts, and actions, which kept people from God instead of drawing them to Him.
The Pharisees saw themselves as better than others. They prided themselves on their clean lives. They had forgotten and neglected that which truly mattered:
Matthew 5:44-45 – But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (NIV)
How about us today as God's people? Are our lives congruent inside and out? Have they been swept clean by the ultimate chimney sweep of our souls, or like the Pharisees, do we appear pious on the outside with our clean lives while our unclean spiritual attitudes and behaviours drive people away instead of drawing them toward a loving heavenly Father? Perhaps it is time for a reality check.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we want to do what is right in Your sight. We want to burn brightly for Christ and the kingdom. Come today and sweep us clean of ungodly thoughts, attitudes, and ways, that we might indeed lead lives of holy congruency inside and out. In the wonderful name of Christ, we ask. Amen.