Luke 11:37-42 As Jesus was speaking, one of the Pharisees invited him home for a meal. So he went in and took his place at the table. His host was amazed to see that he sat down to eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony required by Jewish custom. Then the Lord said to him, “You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and wickedness! Fools! Didn’t God make the inside as well as the outside? So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over. What sorrow awaits you Pharisees! For you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore justice and the love of God. You should tithe, yes, but do not neglect the more important things.”
Plant real flowers, not plastic ones.
I saw the flowers as I was running down the sidewalk. They were the brightest on the block—red, purple, yellow and blue pansies that seemed to smile from you from afar. As I neared, I noticed that the flowerbeds had the perfect number of plants in each of them. Amazing. But the closer I got, the more I wondered if something was up. Coming up in front of the house (and with nobody looking, I hope), I stopped mid-stride and leaned over to smell them. It was just as I had predicted—no smell. I leaned closer to touch them. Plastic. Fake. They looked so good on the surface but had no roots. Instead of doing the hard work of planting seeds and tilling soil, the owners of that yard had gone to the craft store. And truthfully, from afar, they could have fooled me. But when I got close, I realized what I had seen wasn’t real at all.
When Jesus accepted an invitation to have dinner with a group of Pharisees, he knew he was going to sit in a bed of fake flowers. On the surface, these guys looked all religious because they followed rules, practices, and traditions to a T. But Jesus knew that around that table, the fragrance of God’s Kingdom was absent. The perfection that showed on the surface was really empty and lifeless on the inside. The Pharisees did what was right not because they cared about others and about God but because they cared about what they looked like.
It's tempting to plant fake flowers. We do it all the time. We want others to look at us and how wonderful we are, how put-together we are, how hard we’ve worked, how much we’ve given. We help people when somebody will notice, we donate when we know it counts toward taxes, we post pictures on Facebook and Instagram of our perfect families, lives, homes, and outings. On the flip side, we find ourselves so very worried that someone will come too close and find out we’re not as perfect, happy, holy, generous, kind, or caring as they thought we were.
But Jesus offered the Pharisees—and he offers us—an opportunity to get real. He wants us to fully experience God’s Kingdom here on earth. And it comes not by acting perfect but by showing our weaknesses, weeds, and barren soil. Instead of keeping people at arms’ length, we draw them close. Instead of hiding our flaws, we expose them for God to use. Instead of making ourselves great, we make others great.
After all, fake flowers are disappointing.
Only real flowers grow.
On Today's Road: What insufficiency, insignificance, or imperfection in your life have you been covering up with “fake flowers?” How has this affected your relationships and your relationship with God? What small step can you take this week to “get real” with someone?