I remember the day Jesus accepted an invitation from a Pharisee to have dinner. Not all of the Pharisees were out to get Jesus, and this man, Jonah, seemed genuinely interested in this new young rabbi. As a matter of fact, he had been a business partner with Ananias. He was not a bad man, but he was nevertheless obsessed with the details of the Law. I could see Jonah was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal, and he said so.
I was watching Jesus, and I could see he had already sized up this man’s heart. Jesus knew he was focused on his public performance, as well as his possessions, so he said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.”
I have to admit I was surprised by Jesus’ words. I wasn’t surprised by Jesus’ abrupt challenge, he had a way of cutting right to the point. But to my way of thinking Jesus should say something like, “You should clean the inside of the dish, like you do the outside.”
This man was squeaky clean on the outside; he seemed to do everything right and was very religious. I expected Jesus to tell this man to get his heart right, and to stop being so obsessed with his outsides, and start focusing on his insides.
Why then did he say, “Give what is inside to the poor?” For that matter, why did he tell the young ruler to give it all away? What does giving have to do with cleaning our insides? The answer has become obvious as the Holy Spirit has given me more clarity: Jesus knows our hearts, and he knows nothing competes for our hearts more than our … money.
Our possessions too often possess us, and keep us in a prison of possession.
So in all cases, Jesus knows the quickest way to start the process of surrendering to him is to start the process of trusting him. And nothing will force you to trust him more than to obey his commands to give, and give generously.