"Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the One who made the outside make the inside also? But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you." (Luke 11:39-41)

What does Jesus mean by "outside the cup and dish" and "inside"?

Here is the context of Jesus' statement - addressed directly at the Pharisees - who were the Jewish ecclesiastical teachers and judges of Jesus' time:
When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal. (Luke 11:37-38)

Eating at the Pharisee house


Jesus had been invited into the Pharisee's house for a meal, whereupon he sat down at the table without the ceremonial washing of his hands - and this was a big concern of the Pharisee.

So Jesus is commenting about how the Pharisee was most interested in Jesus' outer cleanliness of his body - according to Jewish custom - while Jesus' focus and teachings pertained to the "cleanliness" of the inner person - and the worship of the Supreme Being.

This is communicated with Jesus' reference to "inside" versus "outside."

What is the "inside"  mean?


Jesus is speaking of our existence beneath the physical body. This is the spirit-person who dwells within.

You see, each of us is a spirit-person dwelling within a temporary physical body. The physical body is a changing, non-permanent collection of molecules that are constantly being recycled. Within five years, all of our molecules have been replaced by new ones. This means that within five years our entire body will have changed completely in molecular makeup.

We can see this as we look back at photos of our younger body. We might look at a picture of our body as a child for example. What is the picture of? The body in the picture is gone now - all the molecules have been replaced. The body also looks very different. Its smaller, with many different features. We might see a resemblance with our current body, but it is only a resemblance. The body itself is a different body.

This means, practically speaking, that we have changed bodies. But who has changed bodies? Who is the constant person who watches as the body changes? Who is seeing the picture? And who was in the picture?

This is the spirit-person within. This is the person who is occupying the physical body much as a person gets into a car and drives it for awhile.

Furthermore, this spirit-person is of another plane of existence than the physical body. The physical body is made of physical molecules, while the spirit-person is of the spiritual plane - unseen by the physical eyes.

This is why when the body dies, the spirit-person has left, yet no one sees the spirit-person leave. The body looks exactly like it did when it was alive. No molecule has changed. What is the difference?

The difference is that the spirit-person within has left the physical body.

This is the person that Jesus is speaking of. The condition of the physical body - whether it is clean or not - is not Jesus' concern. Jesus' concern is the condition of the person within.

Who is 'the One' that Jesus refers to?


Who is Jesus referring to when he says:
"Did not the One who made the outside make the inside also?"
"The One who made" our inner person and our physical body is none other than the Supreme Being. Jesus is referring to their relative ignorance of the spirit-person within and the notion that the spirit-person ("inside") was created by the Supreme Being just as the physical world and physical body ("outside") was created by the Supreme Being.

Jesus is most concerned about this inner person because the person within - the spirit-person - is eternal. Just as we continue to be ourselves even though our body is constantly changing (yes, we are changing bodies even in this lifetime) we will continue to be ourselves when the physical body dies.

Where will we go when our physical body dies? What will we do?

This is determined by the consciousness of the spirit-person at the time of death. Where our consciousness lies - combined with our past activities - determines where we go at the time of death.

Jesus is speaking of this consciousness as he reacts to the concern of the Pharisee.

The Pharisees were supposed to be spiritual leaders. They were appointed by the Jewish councils to act as priests and judges for the Jewish institution.

Yet Jesus is pointing out that their concern was focused upon the things of the physical world. They were not focused upon the Supreme Being.

This might bring up the question of why Jesus said:
"But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you."
Why is Jesus focused upon being generous to poor people? Is this really the way to inner cleanliness? Certainly Jesus was poor and the Pharisee had invited Jesus in for a meal. Wasn't this an act of being "generous to the poor"? And certainly, anyone can be generous to the poor, even a person with a wicked heart - as Jesus pointed out - "greed and wickedness."

Actually, this phrase, "be generous to the poor" is a mistranslation. It is being (mis)translated from the Greek phrase ἐνόντα δότε ἐλεημοσύνην.

The word ἐνόντα - the masculine form of ἔνειμι (eneimi) - means "what is within, i.e. the soul" according to the lexicon.

And the word ἐλεημοσύνην comes from the root ἐλεημοσύνη (eleēmosynē) which means, "mercy, pity" and "the benefaction itself."

And the word δότε means "to give."

So the phrase ἐνόντα δότε ἐλεημοσύνην would literally mean to give mercy from within.

What is being "generous to the poor"?


Because like the Pharisees, those appointed and professional ecclesiastical translators who have translated these texts are not seeing from within. They are only seeing the external, physical world.

Therefore, their interpretation of having mercy or pity is being construed as giving charity to the poor.

And why do they say "poor"? Because they consider themselves rich. Why? Because these paid, professional translators (and most of the ecclesiastical teachers of these institutions) are seeing themselves as physical bodies, and they are seeing other bodies with less money as "poor" because they are only seeing the physical bodies of others. They are not seeing what is within as Jesus is teaching.

In other words, they do not see the spirit-persons within these physical bodies. Why? Because their consciousness is focused upon the physical world and its trappings - mammon, in other words.

Why we are away from God


You see, the reason we are here in this physical world is because we rejected the Supreme Being. We decided we didn't want to love and serve Him. We decided we wanted to be independent of Him - so we could enjoy ourselves in a self-centered way.

So He created the physical world and its trappings to allow us to forget Him and allow us to act in a self-centered manner.

In this way, we get to use these physical bodies to act out our self-centered desires. We get to pretend that we are the boss or hero - of our families and/or our workplaces and/or our friends and/or our pets and/or our church and so forth. We get to pretend that we are "the greatest" at something.

This is why there are so many Guinness World Records. Everyone wants to be "the greatest" at something. And if Guinness doesn't record something for us, we can find some moment in our lives that proves we are "the greatest".

This is because we want the Supreme Being's position. God and only God is the Greatest.

And this is why we are here in the physical world, away from the Supreme Being.

So Jesus is commenting on this specific issue because he sees that the Pharisee's focus is upon the physical world and its trappings. The Pharisee wants to be the big teacher and boss/hero of his community and that's why he invited Jesus over for a meal so that he could sit in judgement of Jesus just as he enjoyed sitting in judgement of others.

Seeing the person within


Jesus is pointing out that the Pharisees do not see the person within. Though their concerns related to the various rituals of Jewish custom - they were not recognizing the spirit-person and its relationship with the Supreme Being - "the One who made" both the spirit-person within and the physical body outside.

As such, Jesus is requesting that in order to have a "clean" consciousness - a "clean" spirit-person within - he is instructing the Pharisee to have mercy upon others and their spiritual lives from within.

Just consider what mercy from within means. It means having compassion upon others. And this requires humility. To have compassion doesn't just mean looking down upon someone who is worse off physically and having pity for them.

It means to love and care for others from a spiritual sense. This is because what is within each of us - beneath our "greed and wickedness" - is a loving heart that wants to be loved and wants to love others.

From a practical sense, in the case of the Pharisees being teachers and judges, it would relate to them having compassion (caring) for those who were following them or otherwise within their jurisdiction. Their focus would change from being some sort of policemen - reflected by the phrase, "teachers of the law" and "experts in the law" (Luke 11:46) often used to describe the Pharisees - to being kind and merciful to others, and teaching them according to the fundamental spiritual tenants of Moses' teachings - which they were supposed to be following and teaching in the first place.

And what was Moses' most important teaching ("law") according to Moses, Jesus and Moses' student, Joshua and the other Prophets?
" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself." (Matt. 22:37-39 - and Luke 10:27, Mark 12:30, Deut. 6:5, Joshua 22:5, Psalm 31:23)