Clean the Inside First

2015 Reading Challenge: The fourth section of the 2015 Reading Challenge is: a book that was published in 2014/2015. I have just finished reading John Grisham’s book Sycamore Row. This book was published in 2014. It continues the story of Jake Brigance, a young attorney in Ford County, Mississippi, who was the main character in Grisham’s first novel A Time to Kill which also is a great book.

A Book Published in 2014/2015: Here are a few thought suggestions: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, and Archer’s Voice by Mia Sheridan. Go to the bottom of this article, click on Comment, and let me what you are reading.

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“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 Pharisees! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”        Matthew 23: 25-26

This morning I read Matthew 23: 25-26 and was reminded of a story I once heard. The story was about an old woman who had lived in her house a very long time. Over the years she never noticed how cluttered and dirty the house was getting. Then one day she decided she would clean the little teacup that was on the kitchen table.

She carried the little teacup to the sink careful not to drop it. This cup was very special to her. She did not use the cup often, but when she did there came a peace over her and she would think of the beautiful days she had as a young girl.

After washing the little teacup, she placed it back in its special spot on the table. “Oh my” she exclaimed “the table is cluttered and dirty.” She was amazed that over the years she had let things go. First it was little things like washing the table under the toaster or picking up the old newspapers after she read them. Little things — things that might go a day or two or three and not get done at all. After a while the crumbs under the toaster and the pile of newspapers just became part of the table. The old woman picked up the newspapers and threw them away; then she picked up the toaster and cleaned underneath it and wiped the toaster itself. Wow, what a difference! She picked up the other things that had collected over the years and put them in their right place and wiped the table down. Now the little teacup looked shiny and clean in its special spot.

The old woman stepped back to admire her work. But then she notice something — every where she looked was dirty and dusty and cluttered. She set to work cleaning the kitchen until the whole kitchen was clean.

I had not thought of this story in years. Then this morning I read Matthew 23: 25-26. Each time we read Scripture we come to it from a different place. It may be the first time we have read it. The stories are cute. We read about sheep and shepherds, crowds of people sitting and listening to Jesus, or stories like the cup and the plate. But then you read it again and again and again. With each reading comes a different understanding of what we are being told.

The Pharisees were the teachers and religious leaders in Jesus’ time. They interpreted (what we call) the Old Testament to the people. But not all the Pharisees followed the teachings and lost sight of what God was telling them.

Jesus begins this story with “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!” Jesus knows that the Pharisees taught the people to clean up their lives and follow God, but many of the Pharisees did not see the dirt in their own lives. We are just like the Pharisees. We are ready to help another get their lives in order, but we do not see the dirt that is in our lives.

The story makes me think of times I have had a wonderful shower. I am wet and clean on the outside, but as I dry off I begin to see the places in my life where I have been impatient or critical of someone else.  I see the hypocrite in myself when I encourage folks to read their Bible everyday, and then I don’t. Or I tell someone I will do something then not do it.

However, this story about the little teacup can remind us of important issues in our lives that need to be looked at and fixed. Once you start cleaning things up, other things will become clear that need to be cleaned up as well.

Jesus’ stories are not just cute, little stories. They teach us how to live with ourselves and others. First, we have to start at home before we go out to conquer the world around us. Start small, then see what else the Lord has placed before us to clean up. Pick up the broom and start sweeping, this can be an amazing journey.

Today, do something that challenges you, Linda


One thought on “Clean the Inside First

  1. Linda, I am reading Natchez Burning by Greg Isles. It is a hard book for me to read – brings back some really not desirable memories of things I grew up with. But it is a good book nonetheless!


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