“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, 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, so that the outside of it may also become clean.Matthew 23:25-26 CSB
Six times in this chapter Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!“, and then condemns something that they are doing. It would be easy to assume that the Pharisees are terrible people, but that is not really the case. The Pharisees, among all the Jews of their day, were the most zealous for the Law of Moses and generally lived strictly according to its precepts. I suspect that if I had been a Jew in first century Palestine, I would have been a Pharisee.
The problem with the Pharisees was that their hearts did not reflect their actions. They were making every attempt to keep the legalistic requirements of the Law, but it was having no impact on their inner person. Jesus accused them of appearing holy on the outside while being full of greed and self-indulgence; instructing them to turn their focus toward cleaning up on the inside.
Of all the challenges Jesus issued to the Pharisees in this chapter, this is the one I find the most convicting. When I am honest with myself, I recognize my selfishness, and self-centeredness; too often caring more about myself than about others. Putting others first, which is what love is, does not generally come easy, but is essential if I want to be clean on the inside where it counts.