Many of us can do a good job of looking pretty "clean" on the outside - particularly if we have grown up in educated middle class environments. We know how to mind our manners (when it is necessary); how to say roughly the right sort of things to people (even if we are thinking something completely different in our hearts); we can make a big show of our support for issues of justice (particularly the ones that have popular support); and we know enough to keep our more unattractive behaviours hidden from public view. It's a sort of acceptable christianised hypocrisy that we all indulge in.
But the real danger happens when we start to believe our own spin - and we start to put ourselves in a different category to "normal people". We are the "righteous few", and they are the "uncaring, selfish many". Its a very seductive position - as it brings with it the marvellous comforts of conceit, and contempt for others (albeit carefully disguised). Welcome to the world of a 21st century pharisee, which christians so easily inhabit.
So listen to what Jesus says to us in Mark 7. "For it is from within, from the human heart that evil intentions come...deceit, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evils come from within, and they defile a person." Jesus makes it very clear that any outward show of righteousness counts for nothing, while on the inside our hearts are pouring out wickedness. And this is really hard to hear. It means that despite all our attempts to distinguish ourselves from others, to better ourselves in our own or their eyes - we are all on a level playing field. We may be an environmental campaigner, a full time advocate for the poor, a carer for disabled people, an impoverished artist, or a fat-cat banker, or even an environment-plundering miner. And it all makes absolutely no difference before God - our hearts are all absolutely filthy in his sight.
Prepare to be humbled this Sunday as Peter Adam speaks on Mark 7.