What does Luke 11:41 mean?
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.
Verse Commentary:
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.
Verse Context:
Luke 11:37–44 is a shocking indictment which completes the Pharisees' rejection of Jesus. They appear to be holy, but they are filled with spiritual death. Next, Jesus will turn to the lawyers who claim to follow the Mosaic law but are more faithful to the long tradition of persecuting God's prophets (Luke 11:45–52). While the lawyers and Pharisees attempt to destroy Jesus (Luke 11:53–54), He warns His disciples to stay strong in persecution, knowing the kingdom of God is near (Luke 12:1—13:9). Jesus will speak further about the scribes and Pharisees right before His crucifixion (Matthew 23).
Chapter Summary:
Jesus teaches the disciples how to pray and explains God's intent to give "good" to those who ask. He then exorcizes a demon and refutes the claim that His power is satanic. Jesus explains that unreasonable skeptics will only see the "sign of Jonah." He then criticizes the superficial legalism of the Pharisees. In response, they plot against Him.
Chapter Context:
In what some scholars refer to as "The Travelogue to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51—19:27), Jesus prepares His disciples for His crucifixion and resurrection and the establishment of the church. The description begins with Christ teaching the disciples how to spread the news of the kingdom of God and reaffirming how they will be blessed, culminating in the Lord's Prayer (Luke 9:51—11:13). Luke 11 finishes with accounts of leaders who reject Jesus. The remainder of the travelogue gives a pattern of teaching on the kingdom of God, miracles, and explanations of salvation. Then Jesus enters Jerusalem to face the cross.
Book Summary:
Luke was a traveling companion of Paul (Acts 16:10) and a physician (Colossians 4:14). Unlike Matthew, Mark, and John, Luke writes his gospel as an historian, rather than as a first-hand eyewitness. His extensive writings also include the book of Acts (Acts 1:1–3). These are deliberately organized, carefully researched accounts of those events. The gospel of Luke focuses on the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Luke's Gentile perspective presents Christ as a Savior for all people, offering both forgiveness and direction to those who follow Him.
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