“You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.”
It’s canning season.
Here is my canner, in the dry grass under a tree.
Why, you ask?
Let me tell you a story…
All over the country, folks who like to gather and preserve their own garden veggies are gearing up for canning season. One company that makes canning tools and products is Bernardin. And I absolutely love their motto – ‘Because You Can’. Isn’t that just delightful? So catchy. So empowering.
Anyway, it’s time. I wanted to take advantage of a cooler day and do up some dill bean pickles. I gathered the veggies. I checked the spices.
I needed my canner which, due to its bulk, is stored in the basement.
While there, I checked my jar supply. Nice. Just enough. I grabbed the canner.
I’m not sure if that is actually the noise I made, but it must be a close approximation. Add to that a distress dance (a cross between the Happy Feet routine and a Herculean leap from a burning building) and you’d about have it.
A dead one. But a mouse nonetheless.
Why’d he have to pick my canner for a place to die, anyway?
This explains why my canner is under a tree.
I’ve decided to turn it into a plant pot and buy a new one. No amount of bleach can take away the image of that beady-eyed varmint all curled up in his death pose at the bottom of my canner.
Because I can’t.
I just can’t.
And y’all know this experience has gotten me thinking about life.
Jesus in this passage from Matthew is blasting the Pharisees, a ruling party who were at the top of the food chain in the religious community at the time. He was accusing them of doing all sorts of things to look good outwardly, while they were ignoring their real problem.
The outside can look mighty pretty while the inside is a stinking rotten mess of mouse crap. It’s not a nice image. It’s not a comfortable thought. But my heart is where all my thinking and responding and actions and choices comes from – and I’m afraid that some days, there’s a dirty mess inside.
Which makes perfect sense. Our real problem is our tendency to break God’s rules, and you and I are all infected by it. It’s just a part of who we are.
Which is why I’m so thankful right how, I’m tearing up.
All that mouse mess – no amount of bleach feels like it can take that away. Same with my sin. I forget that to God it stinks to high heaven and makes Him want to gag. And by myself I can’t clean it up.
I need Jesus.
I need what He did on that cross. I need to get real with my sin and look it in its beady eyes and call it what it is. I need to understand that it hurts me, and it poisons my decisions and interactions. I need to confess it, and bring it to Him so He can clean me up again.
Because nothing I do with that mess lurking inside is going to be of any value. I can’t pretty it up. I can’t keep a lid on it and hope it goes away.
I don’t know about you, but the picture of that mouse is really really motivating me to do some quick in-house cleaning. And I’m so grateful that all my inner messes are cleansed, washed by grace – not because I can do it myself.
Because He can.
Isn’t that just amazing?
Let it sink in for a bit.
That’s powerful stuff.
I mean, it’s the spiritual equivalent of getting a new canner after every lifting of the heart lid and finding the garbage in there. The fact that my mess has been dealt with completely and forever is simply astonishing.
Bring your mice – I mean, sins to God to get them all washed away with me?
Father, how messy we are – and how clean and perfect You are! Remind us that breaking Your rules has consequences, and it makes us dirty! But oh, thank You for the grace that You offer, when You promise to forgive us and cleanse us. May we never be like the Pharisees, who blindly cleaned their outsides, while they were full of greed and hypocrisy inside. Amen.