Kenneth Samuel: It's an Inside Job

"You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.'" - Mark 7:6 (New Living Translation) 

Recently I spilled some red wine on one of my favorite white sweaters. I took the sweater to the cleaners and pointed out the stain. When I went to pick up the garment after it was dry cleaned, there was a note attached that read, "Sorry. We tried, but we couldn't get the stain out." The proprietor explained that the stain had gotten embedded into the fabric, so it couldn't be rubbed away.

Throughout the gospels, Jesus is constantly challenging the assumptions of religious people who believed that their pious rituals were indicative of their inner purity. They went through elaborate lengths to ensure that their hands were thoroughly drenched in water before eating; that all of their eating utensils were properly cleansed and that nothing from the market was eaten without the proper hand washing.

But Jesus knew that these outer rituals of cleansing were a mere means to camouflage the inner iniquities of people's hearts. Their hands were clean, but their hearts were so defiled that they refused to care for their elderly parents on the pretentious grounds that they vowed to give to God what they should have given to support the elderly. Their hands were clean, but the relationships that emanated from their hearts were insincere, inhumane and full of religious hypocrisy.

Aside from our religious affiliations and activities, what do our relationships with others reveal about our spiritual condition? Is there a depth of love and compassion evidenced in the way we treat the elderly? Is there any sincere regard in our relationships for the plights of the poor? Do we possess any heartfelt desire to use our resources to aid and assist the infirm and the weak and the outcast?

Or do we offer God nothing but clean hands, orderly worship and proper religious rites? 


Gracious God, Please cleanse our hearts and minds, so that our relationships with those in need will be a true reflection of your holiness in us. Amen.

Taken with permission from UCC's StillSpeaking devotional. Visit