change the inside first

He said a cuss word, and I got upset. For whatever reason, I just had to point it out. Let’s face it and be honest. I was being judgmental. I asked why he had to use that word. And then he got upset. Because the night before, I had let out a long string of bad words. I was irritated. I was angry we were not communicating effectively. I was frustrated at the snippy words between us. And he did not point it out to me. But on this night for whatever reason, it hit me. I realized something that seems so very elementary. I cannot change him. I cannot choose his words for him. I cannot be his conscience. But I can change me. I can work on my attitude. I can be more aware of my words. I can make a heart change that will lead to a word change. I am the only me I can create lasting change in. It has to be my idea. It has to be my motivation. It has to be my will and energy that works to make me a better me. No one can do it for me.

You see, for a long time now, I feel like I have slipped. I have let my heart become sort of numb to my faith. I have let my mind move away from sensitivity to Christ-like behaviors. Come on now, we all do this sometimes, right? Really I have allowed my heart to move toward selfishness and hypocritical actions. I say I am a Christian, but I do not spend much time with God. I do not open my Bible and let it speak to me. I do not spend my time in prayer talking to my Savior and Lord. I do not set my mind on things above but instead on earthly things. In fact, Colossians 3 says it quite bluntly – rid yourself of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. It is right there in God’s letter to me – watch what you say. It goes on to say to clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…put on love. But really, in all honesty, how good am I at that? It is so much easier to grumble, to call someone stupid, to say a cuss word, to be impatient with another, to scream at the driver in front of me because I do not like the way they are driving, or to look the other way when someone has a need I can easily fill. And let’s not forget that big one I mentioned – finding fault in my spouse instead of focusing on my own issues.

After walking away from him with a pretty negative attitude, I googled “difference between a Christian and hypocrite”. And it brought me to Matthew 23 which is often referred to as the Seven Woes. Jesus is telling people not to be like the Pharisees and instructs them to stop being fake, judgmental, hypocritical, and the like. Then I read verses 25 and 26 – you clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence….clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside will also be clean. That really struck me. How often do I worry too much about how I appear to others? I can be so focused on losing weight or getting in shape so I can look good. I think about how it looks if one of us says a bad word or he makes a joke. I worry over appearances and impressions. Yet, I should be more concerned about my heart. I should be focused on the health of my mind and the state of my spiritual self. When the inside is cleaned up and disciplined, the outer shell follows suit. So why do I have it backwards? Why do I spend so much time fussing and messing with the right outfit or obsessing over a bad hair day or saying the right thing to impress people? Is my spiritual wellbeing and attitude not more important? Is God really so concerned over me weighing a certain number or having the perfect outfit or owning the right house? In a week or ten years will those things matter? Boy I hope not. Instead, the words I speak to others, the fact that I am the only Christ some people may ever see and my witness as someone who calls herself a Christian – that is what matters. Those things are what have eternal value. I absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, want to be known as someone who is sensitive to others, compassionate, filled with empathy, helpful, speaks beauty into others’ lives, and is positive and uplifting.

It is time to stop focusing on the things that truly do not matter, that will not come with me when I die. I will not have a backpack full of money or a list of amazing adventures or an award for the best physical appearance when I see Jesus face to face. But I will carry a resume of the choices I made with eternal impacts. I will be accountable for how Christ-like I chose to live and treat others. I will be questioned on how well I put my mind on things above instead of earthly things.

Priorities matter. Words matter. The state of the heart matters. The focus of the mind matters. Let’s spend our time and efforts focusing on the inside and let the rest fall into place. Let’s work to scrub the inside so the outside can follow suit.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving (Colossians 3:23-24).

2 thoughts on “change the inside first

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