Luke 11:41

ESV But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.
NIV But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.
NASB But give that which is within as a charitable gift, and then all things are clean for you.
CSB But give from what is within to the poor, and then everything is clean for you.
NLT So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over.
KJV But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you.
NKJV But rather give alms of such things as you have; then indeed all things are clean to you.

What does Luke 11:41 mean?

This verse is difficult to interpret. A Pharisee is astonished that Jesus did not ceremonially wash His hands before eating. Jesus has explained to a group of Pharisees and their lawyers that their ceremonies are for show. Their ultimate purpose is to impress people. Their reputation does not reflect their hearts, which are full of greed and wickedness. They are like cups and plates cleaned on the outside but dirty on the inside. They forget that God expects internal holiness, not just external displays (Luke 11:37–40, 45).

In another altercation, the Pharisees and lawyers ask Jesus why His disciples don't ceremonially wash (Matthew 15:1–20). There, Jesus explains the true nature of "cleanness." The Pharisees wash as a way of ensuring they eat nothing unclean, including specks that may have stuck to their hands in the marketplace. God gave the laws of clean and unclean food to the Jews, so they should follow them (Leviticus 11). But true spiritual uncleanness is in the heart including theft, as of widows' homes (Luke 20:46-47) and parents' support (Mark 7:9–13), and the false witness, slander, evil thoughts, and murder they will commit against Jesus (Matthew 15:19). Jesus says, "These [types of acts] are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone" (Matthew 15:20).

"Alms" is money given to the poor. In the Pharisees' culture, giving alms is a cultural sign of a good heart. It's also essential as there were no governmental social services programs. The Pharisees publicly give alms, but they also steal from widows and neglect their parents (Luke 20:47; Mark 7:9–13). Jesus seems to be saying that alms need to come from a good and charitable heart, not a desire to look good. If the Pharisees can do that, it doesn't matter if they ceremonially wash their hands or tithe on the smallest of herbs (Luke 11:42). They will be clean, inside and out.
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