Revelations from the Word

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Give that which is within

by Jean-Louis Coraboeuf

"And as He spoke, a certain Pharisee asked Him to dine with him. So He went in and sat down to eat. When the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that He had not first washed before dinner. Then the Lord said to him, You Pharisees make the outside of the cup and dish clean, but your inward part is full of greed and wickedness. Foolish ones! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also? But rather give [eleemosune] of the things which are within [eneimi]; then indeed all things are clean to you" (Luke 11:37-41 Interlinear).

The Pharisees used to like to give alms in public, pray in public, fast in a way which was visible in order to be praised by men (Matthew 6:2,5,16), and they attached a lot of importance to the ritual of washing of the hands before a meal. Jesus answered the Pharisee who invited Him to have dinner, that God, who had created the inside as well as the outside of man, attached more importance to the interior than the exterior. In fact, He desired first of all to change the heart of man, "For it is not what enters a man which defiles him, but what comes out of him" (Mark 7:15)

The Greek word eleemosune which is translated by 'alms' also means 'compassion', 'mercy'. According to the dictionary 'alms' is 'a material gift or in kind given in charity or pity to the poor'. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explained that the practice of almsgiving was to be done in the secret of one's heart and not in a visible way (Matthew 6:2-4). The Greek word eneimi means literally 'I am in', that is the soul or the heart. Jesus goes beyond the almsgiving of the Pharisees, He says literally, "give your soul as alms", that is "give to others what they lack and what you have: love, grace, favour, mercy, the gift of your time, your spiritual gifts…" That is why Jesus says, "When you are able to give alms that come from your heart (and not from the Law) it will be the proof that all things are pure for you, the inside as well as the outside" (Luke 11:41).

To give as alms from our inner being, it is necessary "first of all to purify the inner self so that the outer self becomes pure too" (Matthew 23:26). Man hopes to change the inside by starting with the outside, that is, by observing the Law, but God wants to change the outside by starting with the inside, that is, "by creating a new, clean heart" (Psalm 51:12). The Pharisees used to practise almsgiving and used to give a tithe, which was good, but they dispensed with justice and the love of God (Luke 11:42) by rejecting the Messiah that God had sent to them. One of the scribes found the words of Jesus outrageous (Luke 11:45), but Jesus said to him, "Woe to you scribes because you have taken away the key of understanding, you yourselves have not entered [the Kingdom of God] and you have prevented from entering those who wanted to enter" (Luke 11:52).