Actually, I don't want to say that, but, given my limited understanding, that's the direction those verses seem to be pointing me toward. That's when I get confused*, because I know that can't be what they're saying if they're going to make sense with the rest of the Bible, so then I have to try to figure out what it really is that they're saying.
There are two things that have been helping me to make sense of this a little bit this week. One is Luke 6:45, and the other is Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. (I seriously love that show! It's ridiculous how much I like it!)
"For out of the overflow of his heart, his mouth speaks."
A few little words, but it makes so much difference. What the Pharisees were doing was not bad as a general rule (washing their hands, dedicating their money to God), but it didn't reach to the depths of their heart. Inside their hearts were turned inward on themselves, and eventually this came bubbling out. Now their dedication of their money to God became more important than caring for their elderly parents. Perhaps they wanted status in God's sight by giving Him the most money. They didn't realize that He didn't want their money, but rather their hearts.
The thing is, the external acts we do matter too. We all know that when our words and actions don't match, nothing that we say can override what we do. If we love God with all our hearts, the actions follow.
I would like to take a moment to thank Dr. Horrible and Co. for providing a fantastic illustration of this at a very timely moment for me.
(Warning: serious discussion about a mostly not so serious show. It will also give away the ending.)
I love Dr. Horrible. I love that he clearly cares about the world that he lives in, that he wants to make a difference. I find myself cheering him on to make it into the Evil League of Evil, even though I don't know why, because he clearly doesn't belong there. Overall, he has a good heart, but instead of doing the external that manifests that, he tries to do good by doing evil. It doesn't work, and he gets burned.
Captain Hammer. Oh, the jerk I love to hate. Pharisee! Hypocrite! Whitewashed tomb! Poopy Head! He does good works externally, but internally there is nothing to back it up. He is clearly the "bad guy", yet Dr. Horrible, for all that he is the "good guy", is also the bad guy.
The thing is, the actions do not come from the heart and follow the heart. I don't think that any of the verses are telling us that external things should be ignored, or that matter and flesh are bad things. I think that the entire point is that what truly matters, what truly makes the difference is the heart. However, then the inside also has to come out and influence our actions. Then the external can be good things that reflect what is within.
Well, you all probably have that down. I sometimes don't have a great grasp on the obvious, so it takes me a little longer. That, and awesome 3-act musicals help.
*It happens a lot; I'm used to it.