It was a Saturday night and Mike and I were hosting our first dinner party with some friends since we had been married. We lived in seminary housing in a tiny apartment, but we were excited to share our new life together with friends. We spent the day tidying up the place, returning our last few duplicated wedding gifts and spending the remaining money on Target gift cards on home decor. I planned out the meal, fine tuned my recipes and went to the store for the final ingredients. I was making my mom’s parmesan chicken, mashed potatoes, a salad and pazookies for dessert (if you haven’t tried a pazookie, go to BJ’s and order one – it will change your life). Nothing could go wrong from here. The house was sparkling clean, the ingredients were bought and Mike and I were planning to impress our friends with our “perfectly perfect” new life together…
Our first married-life apartment.
…Until I looked at the clock. Somehow time had gotten away from me and our guests were going to arrive in just 30 minutes but I hadn’t even started cooking. I seasoned the chicken, rolled it in flour, and stuck it in the oven. I peeled the potatoes, put the water on to boil and, mistakenly, put the potatoes into the monster pot of water before it was boiling. Oh well, it will boil quickly. I tear up the lettuce, by this point I’m sweating, Mike sets the table… WHEW. Our guests arrive…
The only thing left is the potatoes.
We greet our friends, offer them some sweet tea, they take a seat. And wait. And wait. And wait… what is taking the potatoes so long?!
I had not used our stove more than once or twice and turns out, water takes a VERY long time to boil on this particular stovetop. After waiting nearly 45 minutes after our friends had gotten there, I frustratingly took the potatoes out before they were finished cooking, threw in the milk and butter and whipped them up to not-so-perfection. They were as lumpy as a 85 year-old-mattress, they were mushy from soaking in sitting water, the chicken was now cold, the salad soggy and our bellies were roaring with hunger.
I spent too much time cleaning and preparing and not enough time on the thing that really mattered – the meal that we were going to eat. The whole reason we invited our friends to our home. The food that would give our bodies the nutrition we needed (plus a little sugar and carbs). Too worried about a sparkling house, I missed the whole point.
Don’t we do that with a lot of things? Don’t we spend too much time on things that don’t matter and fail to focus our attention on the things that matter most? We can be so much like the Pharisees.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. Matthew 23:27-28 (NIV)
The Pharisees spent so much time fixing up what was on the outside that they neglected to focus on the heart issue – what matters most. Like Jesus said, they were like polished tombs with nothing more than dead bones on the inside – lifeless.
God doesn’t want you to clean your life up like I cleaned up my house. God wants you to give your life to Him – focus on what matters – and let Him clean up the house for you.
When we focus on good deeds, the things other people see, and our outside appearances, it’s like cleaning the house before we cook the meal. And a clean house at a dinner party doesn’t matter if the food we eat doesn’t taste good.