Clean, From The Inside Out (part 2)
It is not what we are on the outside that counts in the eyes of God, but who we are on the inside. No matter what we do to seem righteous in the eyes of the world, God knows the heart (Hebrews 4:12) and can see our motivation in all things. If our motivation is not pure, then “it profits us nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Truly, it is the person within that is seen by God!
In the ministry of our Lord, He encountered and described many different kinds of people. It is interesting and encouraging to consider how he viewed those who saw themselves as righteous, though inwardly filthy, and those who viewed themselves as meek and humble, though inwardly rich in the grace of God. While the Pharisees proved themselves to be outwardly impressive people, Christ never spoke highly of them. On the contrary, He praised the faith and fidelity of the supposed “dregs” of society – the righteous tax collectors, the blind, the poor, the masses of destitute people, humbled by the love of God and the wisdom of Jesus.
Matthew 5:3-8 – Inwardly Righteous
In stark contrast to the ways of the Pharisees, Jesus Christ spent His earthly ministry lauding those who were considered unrighteous in the eyes of the Jewish leaders. He praises the tax collector in Luke 18:10-14 because of his ultimate humility in the shadow of the proud Pharisee. Jesus gives credit to the multitudes for coming to hear Him preach, even though the multitudes were often uneducated, sick, and poor. On the exterior, some of His disciples were the dregs of the earth – blue-collar fishermen, tax officers, the man who once was possessed by a “Legion” of demons. On the interior, though, these were the most qualified people in the world to share in our Lord’s mercy. Jesus does not look for Pharisees, for He says it best in Matthew 9:12, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those are sick.” Essentially, He is indicating that it is not those who think they are healthy – but are inwardly dead like the Pharisees – who would come to follow Jesus, but those who admitted their sickness and embraced the love, mercy, and peace of our Lord. That is, people who have the inward righteousness that the Pharisees sorely lacked.
The overriding theme of the beatitudes is that the quality of a person cannot always be measured by his or her outside appearance. For example, our Lord tells us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (5:3). But who are the poor in spirit? Are they not the ones who prefer to do their work behind the scenes, quietly fulfilling their duties in the kingdom without seeking praise from men? They are not always brilliant, fantastic, or loud, so it is easy to overlook the poor in spirit if we judge only on what is outside of the heart.