Imagine how silly it would be for a person to meticulously clean the outside of a cup or the bottom of a plate, but have little regard for the side that really mattered; what did Jesus call the Pharisees in Mat 23:26 for such foolishness that overlooked the secret sins in their own hearts as if they didn’t matter? What does this teach us about how great a darkness those are in who feign righteousness but cannot, or will not, see the wickedness of their own hearts? How blind and foolish must those be also who deny the spiritual realm altogether and man’s eternal soul, as if there was no inside to a cup? See Psa 14:1; cf. 2Co 4:4. Why is the heart which is represented by the inside of our cup so important to God, and why should it be of primary concern to us as well? See Mar 7:21-22. What simple and obvious remedy does Jesus prescribe for their blindness? See Mat 23:26. What does this teach us about the importance of repentance to one’s spiritual sight? Is it possible for one to see in the spiritual realm and acquire spiritual wisdom and understanding if his heart is unrepentant? See Psa 111:10; cf. Mat 13:14-15, Eph 1:17-18. In what way are Christians in the Laodicean age in which we live similarly blind to their true state, and what is Jesus’ advice to them that would also have benefited these religious leaders of the Jews? See Rev 3:17-19.
Does Jesus mean to imply by His condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees that we need not be concerned at all about the outside of our cup that represents the outward part of our person that is seen by others? Cf. 2Co 7:1 and consider that “first” in Mat 23:26 implies that there is more to follow; cf. Mat 7:5. Why does Jesus say in Mat 23:26 that the primary focus of our purification must be upon our hearts? In light of His words here and in Mar 7:21-22, is it possible for the outside of one’s cup to truly become clean unless the inside has first been cleansed? In spite of the outward appearances of the scribes and the Pharisees, was their apparent righteousness so flawless—like Jesus’, or even Job’s—that none could accuse them of hypocrisy? Is ours? What exactly was it that exposed their supposed deeds of righteousness as a mere dressing or veneer, a sheep skin that hid their true nature? Contrast 2Co 1:12, 2:17, and see Jos 24:14, Isa 33:15, Heb 10:22. What does this teach us about what it is that makes one’s outward appearance and deeds of righteousness real and identifies one as truly clean? See 1Co 5:8, 1Ti 1:5. What does the example of the scribes and Pharisees and Jesus’ words against them in Mat 23:25-26 teach us about religion as one of the potentially greatest dangers to our soul, and why? Cf. Mat 7:21-23, Luk 13:23-24. Is the goal of our faith to just be religious, or to be holy, sincere and true? And where does that take place: on the inside or the outside of our cup?
What does Scripture prescribe for how one is to clean the inside of his cup, that the outside may become truly clean as well? See Mat 4:17. What does this teach us about where true repentance must take place? Cf. Jer 4:14, Act 2:37-38. Should we necessarily understand that repentance must begin in the heart, or can it also begin on the outside of our cup so long as it does not end there? See Eze 18:30-32, Jam 4:8. While Scripture is clear that repentance must begin with us as an act of our will and ultimately take place within our heart, are we able in our own power to completely cleanse our hearts from sin? See Pro 20:9. Who alone is able to scour away all the impurities from the inside of our cup, and by what means does He do so? See Eze 36:25-27, Tit 3:3-7. What then is the relationship between our own repentance and God’s sanctifying work of grace in our hearts? I.e., what is the main part of our repentance that sets God to work cleansing our hearts? See Psa 51:17, Isa 57:15, Luk 18:13, Joh 12:24-25, Rom 6:4-7. Because our own hearts, like those of the scribes and Pharisees, are easily deceived (Jer 17:9), for what must we earnestly pray? See Psa 139:23-24, 51:10. How does the Lord answer when we pray in this way? See Luk 18:13-14, Act 15:9, 1Jo 1:9.
What act of repentance did Jesus specifically mention on another occasion to address the robbery, self-indulgence and other wickedness that the scribes and Pharisees were full of? See Luk 11:38-41, noting that Luk 11:41 is translated by the NLT as, “Clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over.” What does this teach us is an important means the Lord uses to cleanse our hearts? Cf. Mat 6:20-21, 19:21. Considering that the first word of the gospel is “repent” (Mat 3:2, 4:17, Act 2:38, 26:20), that repentance must be from the heart, and almsgiving is specifically set forth by Jesus as that which is able to cleanse the heart, what does this teach us about the centrality of almsgiving to the gospel? Cf. Luk 19:8-10, Act 10:2,4,31, 11:29, 24:17, Rom 15:26, Gal 2:10. Is it today, at least here in America? Why is that, and what might this indicate about why the gospel has become so ineffective in America? In what way has giving to the poor been replaced by giving to the church? Are they the same thing? Are taxes that pay for welfare programs that assist the needy the same thing as giving to the poor? Think: do they have the same effect of cleansing the heart?
1. Almsgiving is also one of the five pillars of Islam.↩