In order to get Jesus away from an ever increasing number of people who had collected together to listen to him, a Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him at his home. What occurred came to be Jesus’ final address to the Pharisees in Luke’s narrative. Although he did speak with certain Pharisees later, Jesus never again addressed a group of them on matters the whole sect believed and practiced. Here in Luke 11:39-40, Jesus accused the Pharisees of being hypocrites, of appearing good to folks on the outside, while in reality their hearts were full of wickedness.
One of the greatest problems of the hypocrite is for him to see and understand his own fraudulent behavior. If he thinks he is charitable and publicly makes out like he is a altruistic person, but is not, how could his wrong understanding be corrected. Moreover, if the uncharitable person is of an elite social group or perhaps even an authority of some public standing, how could such a one be taught or come to understand that he is, in fact, a fraud?
In Luke 11:41 Jesus told the Pharisees to give alms of what is within (G1751 – enemi). Some scholars believe Jesus had in mind that the Pharisees should give out of their hearts. While I can agree with this position, I have trouble believing the Pharisees would understand what it meant to give from the heart. Folks whose values consist of how large one’s paycheck is, hardly understand the value of giving themselves to their families—such as, being present with them etc. If time is money, then time has value. If one gives his time, he is giving himself.
What I believe Jesus had in mind is that the Pharisees ought to give what is within (G1751) the cups and plates (Luke 11:39). That is, when you have a dinner in which you invite guests, invite those who are needy and cannot repay (cf. Luke 14:12-14).
If one would give his alms out of that which he uses himself, he would be present with the folks to whom he was extending mercy, and he would be partaking with them of that which he was giving them. In so doing, he would come to know them in their need, which eventually would call out compassion from within his own heart. While I doubt the Pharisees would have understood Jesus, if he told them to give from their hearts, I believe Jesus would have accomplished that end, if his meaning was for the hard hearted Pharisee to share his own meals with the poor.
During the first century AD hospitality was a major part of the Jews’ social culture. Most often the upper classes would invite only those of his own social class to any particular gathering he might provide. An exception might be made for a guest of honor who might be of a different social class, such as may have been the case for Jesus being invited by the Pharisee in Luke 11:37. The social function to which Jesus was invited would have been either a breakfast or a lunch. It wasn’t the main meal of the day. A modern equivalent might be a barbecue held in one’s own yard.
In this context, Jesus wasn’t telling the Pharisees to completely reject their social status. Rather, he was telling them there were less formal occasions, when they could extend their hospitality to others whose needs they could supply. At the same time this would help the Pharisees keep in touch with their own need to be compassionate toward and love their brethren (cf. Leviticus 19:18).