Gossip, Hypocrisy, And The Inner Life
When a reading starts, "Now, when the Pharisees," you know it's coming. You know what's coming. This reading begins, "Now, when the Pharisees gathered together," it wasn't just one Pharisee. And this is the problem with the Pharisees, it wasn't just one; they were getting together. What's it about? It's about gossip, right? It's about the insidious nature of gossip. It's about how gossip destroys. The Pharisees get together; they got nothing on Jesus, so they attack his disciples. And they say the disciples, they're not washing according to all the laws, so Jesus must be bad because his disciples are doing this thing over here. And they come to Jesus. The Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?"
Does he answer that question? No, he doesn't answer that question. I love that. I love that. He just doesn't even answer that question. He just knows who they are. He knows their heart. He doesn't even answer that question. I think that's a beautiful lesson for you and me, because sometimes people come to you. They got questions, but their questions aren't coming from a good place. Their questions are coming from a place of judgment, criticism. The Pharisees and the scribe, they all get together, they all have their little gossip session, and then they confront Jesus and they say, "We've got this question for you, Jesus." He doesn't even answer the question. It's brilliant. What does he say? "Isaiah prophesied well about you hypocrites. It is written this People honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. In vain, do they worship me teaching as doctrines the precepts of men."
It's powerful. It's strong, right? I can understand why their hatred for him grew because he's calling them out all the time. He's calling them out all the time, and you have to have a great humility to be able to be called out and say, "Yeah, there's wisdom there. There's insight there. I can change. I can grow." And they didn't have that. They didn't have that. But you know what? I'm that Pharisee. I'm like those Pharisees. There have been regretful times in my life where I've gotten together with other people and gossiped about other people.
What does Jesus say? "You people honor me with your lips." There's been times in my life I've done that, "but your hearts are far from me." There's been times in my life-- "in vain, do you worship me teaching as doctrines the precepts of men," how often in my life have I clung to the worldly teachings of people rather than the eternal teachings of God? And so, if we-- if we pay attention, what do we discover? Well, the readings about gossips and hypocrites, and sometimes we are those gossips and hypocrites. And when we read the scriptures, unless we can see ourselves in each and every single person, we're deceiving ourselves.
We're deceiving ourselves because each and every single person in the scriptures is a messenger who comes to teach you and me something about ourselves, not something about somebody else, but something about ourselves. And then Jesus answers the real question. He says, "Hear me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside of man which is going into him can defile him, but the things which come out of a man of what defile him." What's coming out of you? How are you nurturing your heart? How are you nurturing your spirit? How are you nurturing your mind?
So, the good things are percolating in there so that when you engage with others, when you're in relationships, when you have one-off meeting with a stranger, good things bubble up and overflow into this world. What's he saying? He's saying, "Nurture the inner life. The external is a reflection of the internal." We can't control everything that's going on around us, but we can have enormous influence on what's going on within us. And he's encouraging us to pay attention to what's going on within you? What spiritual food do you need to nurture? What is going on within you so that we can resist the temptation to be gossips and so that we can align our actions with our values and not be hypocrites like the Pharisees.