When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee, noticing that Jesus did not first wash before the meal, was surprised. Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you. Luke 11:37–41 (NIV 1984)
Jesus launches into a scathing rebuke of the religious leaders around Him at the dinner table of a local Pharisee. This passage begins a list of seven failures that these leaders experienced. I’ve included this first exhortation to the following list of six that are prefaced with a dire warning, “Woe to you…”
Here’s #1 – Using leadership’s privileges to promote personal greed and wickedness – v. 39 (NIV 1984)
The Pharisees were questioning Him about washing before eating. In particular, they were concerned about ceremonial cleansing of their dishes and utensils. Jesus uses this question as a launching point for a stinging rebuke. He excoriates them for cleaning the outside of their cups, while they ignore the evil inside their hearts.
These leaders were focused on the externals rather than the internals. They looked good on the outside, but in their hearts they were evil. They used their leadership to promote personal greed and wickedness.
Leaders often have access to resources that others don’t. We can take advantage of these for our own personal use rather than using them for the accomplishing the mission. Leaders have authority to make exceptions and often those exceptions are to our personal benefit. Or, worse yet, we can think that the rules and regulations don’t apply to us.
The source of this is pride. It is the sin of Lucifer that resulted in the great divide. He subtly works to help us justify our self-centeredness. “You sacrifice so much for this work,” he whispers. “You deserve it.” “It’s only a little thing,” he says. “No one will know.”
Be very careful! For the Lord’s hand comes off those who do such things. Even more, He actively works against and opposes those whose hearts are prideful and self-centered.
That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:5-7 (NIV 1984)