Luke 11:39-41 (NASB)But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness. “You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also? “But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you.”
When we give that within we give that which we love and that which is nearest and dearest to our heart. The Pharisees were lovers of money thus described as being filled with robbery which was manifested in a wicked covetous behavior to hold these idols close. Christ commands them to give it all away, much as he counseled the rich young ruler. “Go sell all that you have, give to the poor, and then come follow Me, and you shall have treasure in heaven.” He departed grieved for his wealth gripped his inner heart with the strength of ten strong men.
Cutting off hands and plucking out eyes never becomes easier but it can become more reasonable in the light of an encounter with the Lord of glory. His voice in the Gospel whispers with a powerful confident assurance and increasing clarity of purpose. Regardless, the death of even a small idol is neither quiet nor a clean process. There is always traumatic calamity of separation. There is also an ever-vigilant spirit of watchfulness required lest a caustic recurrent malignancy spring to life again in an attempt to reattach itself in vital heart union. This is more common than originally thought. An honest assessment of life and self must conclude: If we are unwilling to part from that which we hold dear, Christ is not Lord and the Cross is not that to which we cling. How can we bear the Cross with two hands stuffed full of this world’s trinkets? Consider Moses and the reproach of Christ, at the cost of the fame and pleasure of Egypt.
I would now like to reference CSLewis in The Great Divorce in his beautiful illustration of killing sin (an idol). The “great divorce” is our becoming unwed from the things of this world that tend to hinder and hide from us the more glorious “other world” or eternity which unseen is in reality more tangible and durable. (This concept of eternal greater durability is brilliantly illustrated throughout Lewis’ masterful work.)
In the following illustration of Lewis the “ghost” is a man making a transition from the temporal to the eternal world but he has a lizard (sin) attached to his neck and it has become a part of him. The lizard must die to complete the translation. Though the “ghost” (man) knows it not good and even evil, he simply cannot lay the lizard aside by himself. A mighty angel offers assistance but only upon the threat of pain shall the lizard (sin or idol) die and never easily or quietly.
A mighty angel approached the man and asked, “Would you like me to make the lizard quiet?”
“Of course I would,” said the Ghost.
“Then I will kill him,” said the Angel, taking a step forward.
“Oh—ah—look out! You’re burning me. Keep away,” said the Ghost, retreating.
“Don’t you want him killed?”
“You didn’t say anything about killing him at first. I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that.”
“It’s the only way,” said the Angel …. “Shall I kill it?”
“Look! It’s gone to sleep of its own accord. I’m sure it’ll be all right now. Thanks ever so much.”
“May I kill it?”
“Honestly, I don’t think there’s the slightest necessity for that. I’m sure I shall be able to keep it in order now. Some other day, perhaps.”
“There is no other day ….”
“Get back! You’re burning me. How can I tell you to kill it? You’d kill me if you did.”
“It is not so.”
“Why, you’re hurting me now.”
“I never said I wouldn’t hurt you. I said it wouldn’t kill you.”
[Suddenly] the Lizard began chattering loudly: “Be careful,” it said. “He can do what he says. He can kill me. One fatal word from you and he will! Then you’ll be without me for ever and ever. I’ll be so good. I admit I’ve sometimes gone too far in the past, but I promise I won’t do it again ….”
“Have I your permission?” said the Angel to the Ghost.
“You’re right. It would be better to be dead than to live with this creature.”
“Then I may?”
“Blast you! Go on can’t you? Get it over,” bellowed the Ghost: but ended, whimpering, “God help me. God help me.”
Next moment the Ghost gave a scream of agony such as I never heard. The Burning One closed his crimson grip on the reptile: twisted it, while it bit and writhed, and then flung it, broken backed, on the turf.
Then I saw, unmistakably solid but growing every moment solider, the Ghost materialize into a man, not much smaller than the Angel.
At the same moment something seemed to be happening to the Lizard. At first I thought the operation had failed. So far from dying, the creature was still struggling and even growing bigger as it struggled. And as it grew it changed. Suddenly I stared back, rubbing my eyes. What stood before me was the greatest stallion I have ever seen, silvery white but with mane and tail of gold.
The man, now free from his torment, climbed upon the stallion that had been his sin and rode into the glowing sunrise towards the Savior.
This is why we need Lewis today.