I am not a great housekeeper, but I am not a filthy housekeeper either. I vacuumed no less than once a week, using my old Filter Queen, which was about the best model out there when we bought it. Yet when the man started pulling up that carpet, carpet that had been sitting there for a couple of decades, I was horrified. Not just a few grains of sand, but cupfuls of sand lay on top of the plywood. I stood there numb with both surprise and embarrassment.
"It's all right," the man said. "This is the least amount I have ever found under a carpet," which may have mollified me a little and given me a selling point for all Filter Queen vacuum cleaner salesmen, but still left me horrified remembering all the times I had lain on that "clean" carpet, exercising, napping, or playing with children.
"A carpet is really just a giant sieve," he explained. "The big pieces stay on top and you vacuum them up, but all that tiny stuff just sifts right through. No vacuum cleaner in the world can pull it back out."
Which means, of course, that you can look perfectly clean on the outside and still be dirty underneath. Seems I have heard that metaphor many times before from Jesus himself.
And it makes perfect sense. Especially if you were "raised in the church" as we so often say, you know better than to let the big stuff pass through your "sieve" (conscience?). But what still goes on through to your heart? The things we call "little," that's what. Things we allow to invade our thinking and permeate our attitudes, but since we seldom, or even never, act on them in an open way, we think are "no big deal." So why are they important?
Think for a minute who actually conspired to murder our Lord. Priests, scribes, Pharisees, Saducees--people who were considered the most religious of their day. If you had asked them if they would have ever murdered someone, what do you think they would have said? They would have been horrified that you even asked.
So what are those kinds of things that we allow to sift through? Pride, selfishness, self-importance, bitterness, grudges, just to name a few. Insidious things that work their evil gradually, infecting the heart of even those we see as the most pious and godly.
We knew a man once who everyone would have described as "honest," yet when he was confronted with something he had said that was wrong, he lied about it—even though the statement was captured on tape. His pride would not allow him to admit wrong and repent. That is just one example. I have known others who did much worse yet were considered "pillars of the church," and all because of those "little" things that sifted through the carpet of their conscience.
So do yourself a favor today, and on regular occasions after today. Pull up the carpet on your heart and search for the little things. You might be surprised, and even horrified, at what you find.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. (Matt 23:25-26)