When I was in college I worked in the cafeteria, washing pots and pans. As soon as I’d get one clean, it seemed like the cooks grabbed it and used it again. It was never-ending, with very few opportunities to slow down. I could have sped things up if I had concentrated on only cleaning the outside of the pots, but how long do you think I would have kept my job if I did that? Yet, this was exactly what some of the religious leaders were doing in Jesus’ day.
Jesus said to these proud religionists, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” (Matthew 23:25)
Sometimes churchgoers have a condescending attitude that says, “You won’t find me doing the BIG SINS, like murder or adultery. I’m not that bad.” You can hear this attitude in one Pharisee’s prayer, “‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’” (Luke 18:11–12)
Jesus isn’t duped by our outward actions. He evaluates the hidden attitudes of our hearts. He said, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28). In fact, later Jesus indicated that the human heart is like a garbage dump, the source of all kinds of filth. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” (Matthew 15:19).
That’s the human condition. It plagues each one of us, not just the proud religionists of Jesus’ day. If left to our own devices, those attitudes of the heart can grow into unsightly weeds in our lives. Romans 3:12 is an accurate description of all of us, “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
That pill is hard to swallow because most of us consider ourselves to be good. Compared to others, that may be true. But when compared to God, my goodness is like filthy rags. There is something in me (the Bible calls it sin) that fights against God. The inside of my pot, my heart, is in need of cleansing. Thankfully, God has a means to wash the “insides of the pot.” It’s called confession.
Confession does not require us to go to a confessional or see a priest. We are invited to admit our sins directly to God. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9). Instead of shifting the blame, or making an excuse for our sin, if we’ll be honest with God, and admit our sin, He is ready to forgive.
God is not like me standing at the cafeteria sink looking at an endless pile of dirty pots; God doesn’t grow tired of hearing our confessions. He stands ready to extend His mercy and forgiveness to you again and again.