There’s a line in this morning’s gospel (MT 23:23-26) that makes a very funny comparison but Jesus is certainly not in the mood for humor in using it. He’s trying to make a very serious point. He’s talking to the Pharisees about their penchant for attention to the tiniest details of the law while ignoring the overall message of God’s purpose in the world. He says, “Blind guides! You strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!” Yes, they pay their tithes on spices, etc. but they have neglected mercy and fidelity as they go about judging others. His suggestion to them – and to us – is to look inside ourselves rather than always congratulating ourselves by comparing our devotion to the failures of others. This, too, he describes in a somewhat less stark but very mundane and easily grasped image, saying, “You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.”
I’m pretty sure I’ll remember this text at least for awhile as I do the dishes and grouse about the tea and coffee stains inside the cups. May it remind me to put a little elbow grease into the task as well as a bit of introspection in my heart.