Wash, rinse, sanitize ( Prayer Devotional for the week of June 21, 2015)

Would you eat at a restaurant that only rinsed off its dishes? What if they washed the dishes with soap and cold water? I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you would not want to eat at such an establishment. Health codes (and common sense) require that the dishes not only get washed and rinsed properly, but commercial kitchens even have an extra sink basin for sanitizing.

I grew up watching the late Marvin Zindler on Houston’s KTRK Eyewitness News, and seeing one of his exposes on local restaurant violations was enough to make anyone reconsider cooking at home. I remember watching newscasts with my family and hoping that none of the restaurants we frequented were ever on his list of busted facilities. The fact of the matter is, when we sit down to eat at a restaurant, we want to trust not only that the food has been prepared under sanitary conditions, but also that the plate and utensils have been scrubbed free of visible filth and the invisible germs have been cleaned away, as well.

We have high standards when it comes to cleanliness. Or, do we?

In Matthew 23, Jesus went on a rant because the Pharisees were overly concerned about their outward appearance but cared little about what really mattered. In verses 25-26, he told them, “You’re hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You burnish the surface of your cups and bowls so they sparkle in the sun, while the insides are maggoty with your greed and gluttony. Stupid Pharisee! Scour the insides, and then the gleaming surface will mean something” (MSG).

Do we demand sparkling-clean dishes but fail to “sanitize” our own lives from the inside out? Do we serve dinner on perfectly coordinated place settings while our hearts are filled with self-righteousness? Do we keep the silverware polished but have tarnished attitudes? Let’s learn from the Pharisees’ mistakes; let’s not be falsely clean frauds.
(Originally posted February 12, 2012)

I’m not judging, but … (Prayer Devotional for the week of March 23, 2014)

First, a quick grammar lesson: The word “but” is a conjunction, which is used to contrast something that has just been said with something that is about to be said. Ex: I can’t stand mayonnaise, but I love mustard. So, it makes complete nonsense to say something like, “I’m not racist, but …” (and then say something disparaging about another ethnicity). Or, here’s a good one: “Don’t get me wrong, but …” (and then say something critical). Or, how about this classic: “I’m not judging, but …” (and then cut down someone). What it boils down to is that you can’t use the word “but” as a disclaimer for saying mean things about people. Contradicting yourself does not give you grounds to judge others. Believe it or not, the Bible does not forbid us from judging people. In fact, according to 1 Corinthians 5:12, we’re actually instructed to judge each other, but it should be within the context of the church and for the good of the church family, not to alienate or degrade people. Then there’s Matthew 7, which warns that we risk being judged by the same criteria that we judge others. Ouch, I remember being stung by that passage of Scripture in my early days of parenting. As a young, childless adult, I had often thought negatively about the parenting skills of people whose children were being obnoxious in a store or restaurant … until I was *that* parent with the inconsolable, fit-pitching toddler. Talk about eating my words! I have seldom been so mortified. Remember that cliché you probably heard from your parents: “If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all.” For the most part, I agree with that sentiment, but there is also a time and a place for constructive criticism. The catch is that the first place we need to look for problems is in the mirror. Matthew 7:3-5 picks up the conversation with a reminder to investigate our own flaws before we start pointing them out in everyone else. Part of being a healthy church family includes holding each other accountable, which means holding ourselves accountable, as well.