The Inspection of the Law

Jesus was invited to dinner with a Pharisee and the man noted that He did not first perform a ritualistic washing according to the Jews' oral tradition of interpreting the Law. Jesus uses the opportunity to contrast the traditional emphasis on detailed external performance with the internal reality the commandments of God were supposed to reflect.

But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.
(Luke 11:41)

This is one of those rare cases in which the KJV, NIV, (1984), along with GNT, CEV, NCV and several others, obscure the full meaning by interpreting the passage rather than conveying the literal meaning as they usually do. The KJV renders it, "give alms of such things as ye have," while the NLT goes too far by saying, "clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over." In context, Jesus is talking about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, focusing exclusively on those acts which men can see, yet privately harboring depravity and larceny. He made the cup and platter with the clean outside and filthy inside a metaphor for their lives. God made the outside as well as the inside. They can wash the outside, but only He can wash the inside, something that is only done when one helplessly gives oneself to God. Paul described the Macedonian Christians this way in 2 Corinthians 8:1-5.

Jesus is making it plain that it is the love we cannot produce of our own accord that He desires. This love results in works, to be sure, as Jesus goes on to make plain,

“…you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Luke 11:42)

The details matter, but only insofar as they reveal the heart's loyalty. While the heart of one truly devoted will at least follow the minimum requirements, the overall picture will also reflect the heart of God.

At a recent doctor visit, my blood pressure was 124/77. That's not, in and of itself, proof of good health. But it's a detail that is in harmony with health. All it really means is that the pressure of the blood in my arm is equivalent to the pressure of 124mm of mercury when my heart contracts, 77 when it relaxes. I could have any number of terminal diseases, including cancer, yet have a perfectly normal blood pressure. But a blood pressure that is too high or too low is itself an indicator of poor health, though not necessarily an indicator of the cause of it.

Legal observance is the same type of analog. While I can't point to a specific commandment that I habitually fulfill as proof of my love for God, someone else may well point to my habitual violation of it as evidence of my lack of love.

The Law is like comprehensive medical testing: blood work, imaging, internal testing and long-term observation. Taken comprehensively, it revealed Jesus when He came by His perfect fulfillment of it. (Matt. 5:17) Yet as James says, when I offend in one point, I am guilty of all of it. (James 2:10) Like Jesus Himself, love is the fulfilling of the Law. (Rom. 13:8-10; Ga. 5:14) If we love Him, we will keep His commandments. (John 14:15) If we keep His commandments, He will make Himself known to us. (John 14:21) The question is, if you have the reputation but not the very reality of this love, is it worth it to you to trade the reputation for the reality?