The Gospel of Luke - Part 53: Purity — Luke 11:37-54
(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for connection class leaders at Hoffmantown Church.)

Review:

We are in Luke Chapter 11 where Jesus teaches us:

A.   To Be Prayerful
B.   To Be Powerful and
C.   To Be Pure

Last week we started into His teaching about being pure, having integrity.  You may recall that He was chastising a Pharisee about holding up an appearance of integrity, but not having it in his heart. We looked at several verses where Jesus and the New Testament writers emphasized how important purity of heart is.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. —Matthew 5:8

But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. —1 Timothy 1:5

Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. —2 Timothy 2:22

Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart —1 Peter 1:22
Last week we focused on how tradition, although valuable, can instead become a problem when it becomes a religion.  Remember: Here are the verses from Luke 11 dealing with the topic of being pure, having integrity.
Now when He had spoken, a Pharisee asked Him to have lunch with him; and He went in, and reclined at the table. When the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal.  But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness. You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also? But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you. But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places. Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it.” One of the lawyers said to Him in reply, “Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too.” But He said, “Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs. For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.’ Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering.”  When He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile and to question Him closely on many subjects, plotting against Him to catch Him in something He might say. —Luke 11:37-54
This morning we will pick up the teaching of Jesus with verse 39.
But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness. You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also? But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you. —Luke 11:39-41
This is a vivid image that we can still relate to today. If you were to drink from a cup, would you rather the inside or the outside of the cup be clean? Of course, our preference is both! But what’s is most important is the inside of the cup. Imagine being handed a silver cup — polished and spotless on the outside but inside coated with crud. Disgusting, right?

Here is the second wrong idea that Jesus corrects — focusing more on the outside than the inside. The inside has to do with the heart and that’s what matters most to God.

You’re probably familiar with this Old Testament verse: But the Lord said to Samuel, “...for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” —1 Samuel 16:7

Jesus used this situation to illustrate the fundamental problem of the Pharisees: they were more concerned with ceremonial cleansing than inner cleansing.

Most Christians today are more concerned and invest more time and effort in having a clean body than a clean heart!

Matthew recorded Jesus saying something very similar to Luke 11:39-41, although it was probably in a different situation.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. —Matthew 23:25-26
What specific sinful attitudes does Jesus condemn in Luke 11:39-41?

Greed:

How would you explain what greed is? We need to be especially concerned about this sin because it is so pervasive in America. In fact, it seems to be accepted, almost admired, rather than condemned even among Christians.

Wickedness:

The word Jesus used in Matthew 23:25 is “self-indulgence”. That fits closely with “greed.”

Indifference:

In verse 41, Jesus also condemned the Pharisees’ lack of compassion for the poor. Today, when Christians are seen as indifferent to the needs of the poor, there is a tremendous loss of credibility for the cause of Jesus.

Legalism versus Devotion:

But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places. Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it. —Luke 11:42-44
What stands out to you from what Jesus says in these verses?     Woe to you Pharisees...

Jesus condemns them for being painstakingly conscientious in their giving while neglecting godly character. Notice that Jesus points out that the solution is not to stop giving but to do both! The tithe is mentioned in the Gospels only here and in Matthew 23:23 and Luke 18:12. The focus of Jesus’ teaching here is not really tithing. But maybe we should use His statement as a springboard for considering this question:

Does God want us to tithe?

This is a difficult question, with strong Bible teachers lining up on both sides. The primary emphasis in the New Testament is on generous, sacrificial giving rather than on a particular percentage. Yet the pattern of the tithe is found both in the Old Testament Law and even before in Abraham's gift to Melchizedek. It's difficult to conceive of generous and sacrificial giving being less that 10%. But God may want you to give much more than that!

Bible teacher John MacArthur states this even more strongly: “At no time in the New Testament is tithing mentioned as binding on the church or even recommended as the standard for Christian giving.”

Perhaps a balanced view of the tithe is to see this as a “historical benchmark” God has provided to help us with our giving. If you are giving less, you might consider setting up a schedule that moves you toward giving a greater and greater percentage. Often Christians get so in debt through credit cards and other monthly payments, that giving sacrificially and generously is very difficult. That's why it's important to minimize debt and to give to God first and learn to live within the limits of what is left.

However, we shouldn’t see giving 10% as a maximum limit on our giving. In fact, we should probably see giving 10% as a minimum, a baseline. Many of us can and should give more, much more. It’s important that we have an attitude of wanting to give as much as we can rather just as little as we have to.

The central theme of what Jesus is saying here is love. The Pharisees lacked a love of people or even a love of God. In contrast, Jesus highlighted what these religious people really loved — attention, position, and the praise of people.

Jesus gives us a sober warning — religious activities like tithing don’t count for anything unless they spring from a heart of love, for God and for people. We should understand this. After all, this is what Jesus said was the greatest command found in Scripture.

Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” —Mark 12:29-31
Religion versus Relationship:
One of the lawyers said to Him in reply, “Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too.” But He said, “Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs. For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.’ Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering.” When He left there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to be very hostile and to question Him closely on many subjects, plotting against Him to catch Him in something He might say. —Luke 11:45-54
What strikes you about what Jesus says in this passage?
“Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too.”
This man was right in thinking that the scribes (experts in the law) were included in Jesus' condemnation. Verse 46 says:
But He said, “Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers. —Luke 11:46
Jesus pointed out that their traditions “load people down” with duties and obligations that God never intended.

The Life Application Bible says: “These ‘burdens’ were the details the Pharisees had added to God’s law. To the commandment, ‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy’ (Exodus 20:8), for example, they had added instructions regarding how far a person could walk on the Sabbath, which kinds of knots could be tied, and how much weight could be carried. Healing a person was considered unlawful work on the Sabbath, although rescuing a trapped animal was permitted (Luke 14:5). No wonder Jesus condemned their additions to the law.”

What might be ways that churches can be guilty of doing this today? In verse 47 Jesus says:

Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets... —Luke 11:47
They build tombs for the prophets indicating honor and appreciation yet it was people just like the scribes and Pharisees that killed the prophets. Not only did these religious leaders ignore God's message through Jesus but they also hindered others from hearing and responding to the message. An example of this would be when they excommunicated a blind man that Jesus healed — John 9. You probably remember when Jesus healed the man who had been blind from birth. This ticked off the Pharisees who called in his parents and the healed man and asked about the event, trying to nail Jesus. The parents wouldn’t answer the questions directly, but said ask our son.
His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue. ... The man answered and said to them, “Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes.” ... They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?” So they put him out. —John 9:22-34 [excerpted]
These religious people consider themselves pure and holy because they kept all the ceremonial laws. But they ignored the hardness of their own hearts — the greed, the uncaring attitude toward others, and so on. They had a heart for religion but didn't really have a heart for God. Jesus’ harshest rebukes were not directed toward irreligious people, the pagans (as we might expect) but rather toward the “devout” religious leaders of His day. Why? Because religious activity is such a dangerous deceit. Church people today can be just as guilty of this as the Pharisees were 2,000 years ago. Just because you go to church, just because you read your Bible, doesn't mean you have a heart to be pure on the inside.

Future Lessons:

Pat and I will be traveling out of town for the next three Sundays. When I get back, we will pick up this teaching in Luke with Luke Chapter 12. Between now and then, please read Chapter 12. In the interim, Terry will be teaching a three-week series on a topic called Being Safe, dealing with singles and safe relationships. I have been told that it is a valuable life tool for single Christians. Please be sure to attend, it should not be missed.