The Cup and the Dish

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MP3 Audio (19.28 MB)


The Cup and the Dish

MP3 Audio (19.28 MB)

Although washing dishes, cups, pots and pans is a necessary duty, it’s one that many people don’t enjoy. In the early 1880s this included Josephine Cochran (later Cochrane), wife of businessman William Cochran of Shelbyville, Illinois. However, Josephine had an advantage others didn’t in that she employed servants to handle the task.

Nevertheless, she often discovered small chips on the edges of her chinaware resulting from the washing and handling process. This concerned her so much that she began thinking that perhaps some type of mechanical method could be employed to wash her cups and dishes without damaging them.

Josephine’s work and resolveTo examine the prospect of creating a dishwashing machine, Josephine began sketching designs on paper. But then on Oct. 20, 1883, only two weeks after establishing the concept, her husband died unexpectedly after a short illness. Besides this loss that left her a widow at age 44, Josephine now needed a means to support herself. Therefore the idea of building a dishwasher became not only a convenience, but an economic necessity.

To develop the appliance, she enlisted the help of a skilled local mechanic. In a shed behind her home they built the first practical dishwasher. Josephine obtained a U.S. patent and soon began manufacturing the machines in a small factory. Although she had originally designed the dishwasher for home use, she found it was too expensive for that purpose. It was, however, perfectly suited for hotels and other institutions serving many meals daily.

Selling her unique product was Josephine’s next challenge. In describing her feelings after making her first “cold-call” sales appointment at the elegant Sherman House hotel in Chicago, she recalled: “That was almost the hardest thing I ever did, I think, crossing the great lobby of the Sherman House alone. You cannot imagine what it was like in those days . . . for a woman to cross a hotel lobby alone. I had never been anywhere without my husband or father—the lobby seemed a mile wide. I thought I should faint at every step, but I didn’t—and I got an $800 order as my reward.”

A major breakthrough for Josephine occurred in 1893 at the Chicago World’s Fair. After exhibiting her dishwasher in the hall of machinery, it won first prize for “best mechanical construction, durability and adaptation to its line of work.” That recognition soon found Josephine obtaining orders from many restaurants, hotels and hospitals.

Her company grew steadily for 30 years, propelled by her hard work and resolve. She died in 1913 at age 74. In 1926 her business was purchased by the Hobart Manufacturing Company, which introduced dishwashers for home use in 1949. Today, dishwashers are standard features in houses and apartments around the world.

Following repentance, baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit, we need to make spiritual progress so we can become increasingly like Jesus Christ. We do this by immersing ourselves in regular study and diligent application of God’s Word.

While we can appreciate Josephine Cochrane’s labors in bringing convenience and hygiene to cleaning dishes, there is a significantly greater spiritual cleansing effort the Eternal God is offering to all humanity.

Jesus Christ spoke about this urgent need with several religious teachers of His day. His message to them involved some bad news—which in fact applies in principal to you, me and all people. Beyond that, however, is tremendous good news offering abundant opportunity and hope for every person!

First, the bad news

Before describing that good news, let’s first examine the bad news Jesus delivered to the religious instructors. He told them: “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence” (Matthew 23:25, New Living Translation 2015, emphasis added throughout).

Of course Christ’s focus wasn’t on cleaning dishes, but He used this metaphor to illuminate a deeper spiritual issue. The religious leaders He addressed were diligent in observing washings and obligations demanded by their traditions. Yet they completely missed the mark regarding what was truly important (Mark 7:3-4). Jesus rebuked them further by stating: “You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too” (Matthew 23:26, NLT).

Although Christ addressed those corrupt men, His words actually apply to the disquieting spiritual condition of people today. If we are sincerely seeking divine truth, all of us must face some painful scriptural facts about ourselves. For instance, Jesus said, “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come” (Mark 7:21, New International Version).

Also, Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Furthermore Isaiah said: “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6, NLT).

As hard as it may be to accept, these passages pertain to what we are really like (1 John 1:8). Indeed, all of us have broken God’s laws, which define what sin is (Romans 3:23; 1 John 3:4).

But even now, when we may think we have heard the worst, there is more to learn about our unsatisfactory spiritual state. What is this last bit of bad news? It’s that our sins have cut us off from our Creator (Isaiah 59:2).

Let’s employ an analogy to help grasp this troubling situation. Imagine a huge pile of dirty cups, plates and pans stacked on a kitchen counter. Some food remnants have become hardened nearly like concrete. An obnoxious odor fills the kitchen. Plus, this heap of filthy dinnerware is growing mold and attracting ants, cockroaches and flies.

If this disgusting image of a grimy, foul-smelling kitchen repulses you, imagine if it represented people smeared with sin. In doing so we can understand just how our sins appear to God. Sin is disgusting to Him. It’s like a repugnant odor in His nostrils (Isaiah 65:5).

Now, the good news

We have covered much bad news about our internal spiritual makeup. But thanks to God, there is excellent good news available. It shows how our awful circumstance can be corrected so we can ultimately become God’s cherished sons and daughters in His coming Kingdom (2 Corinthians 6:18).

But before discussing that, we need to return briefly to the image of the dirty kitchen. What should be done to clean it up? To begin, the fouled dishes and pans should be immersed in hot water and allowed to soak so as to loosen the encrusted, hardened food. Afterwards, each item needs to be scrubbed in hot, soapy water or placed in a dishwasher, which typically operates at 130-170 degrees (55-75°C).

With that in mind let’s revisit our spiritual state, which includes our sinful conduct and the woeful nature of our minds and hearts. Just as soiled kitchen items need to be cleaned, God desires to spiritually sanitize us (Ezekiel 36:25).

He begins by opening our minds so we can see ourselves and our sins for what they really are—similar to that mound of filthy dinnerware. After this we must choose whether we will cooperate with Him or reject His help. God won’t force us to comply but will work with us only if we have humble, willing hearts (James 4:8).

We need to admit we have sinned and deeply repent of those transgressions (1 John 1:9). We must accept the suffering and death of Jesus Christ as full payment for our sins (Colossians 1:22).

Following this we need to take another crucial action. We must be baptized. Through baptism we make the commitment to obey God’s commandments and surrender our lives to His service (Romans 6:13; Matthew 19:17). Baptism symbolizes the washing away of all our former sins so we can move forward with a clean conscience (Acts 22:16).

After baptism we need to receive God’s gift of His Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands by His ministry (Hebrews 6:2). Obtaining God’s Spirit is of key importance so that we can fulfill the promise we made at baptism to keep God’s laws (Titus 3:5-6). Through the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to build a profound, personal relationship with God and to truly love and care for other people (Romans 5:5; 1 Peter 1:22).

Following repentance, baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit, we need to make spiritual progress so we can become increasingly like Jesus Christ (John 13:15). We do this by immersing ourselves in regular study and diligent application of God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15).

The Bible’s insights provide us the continual divine cleansing we need (John 15:3; Ephesians 5:26-27). When we spend time each day studying the Scriptures and practicing their admonitions, we will be better able to resist temptation that can lead to sin (Matthew 26:41).

God’s Word cleanses and purifies

Learning and applying God’s Word requires diligent personal effort. Unlike a dishwasher, we can’t simply push a button and put our spiritual lives on an “automatic” setting. Rather, we must employ God’s mighty help to overthrow sinful habits while “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Doing this takes diligent, tenacious exertion since we are still subject to corrupt human nature after baptism. Because of this it’s inevitable that we will fail to obey God at times.

To help us know what to do when this occurs, let’s examine another dish-cleaning illustration. It’s often good to wash dirty table items by hand or put them in the dishwasher and run it as soon as possible after a meal. By doing so there is less chance that food fragments will dry and solidify, becoming more difficult to remove later.

Similarly, when we sin after baptism, we must repent and seek God’s forgiveness immediately through prayer. This is essential so that we don’t become hardened or indifferent to that sin.

To perhaps better grasp this concept, let’s examine one additional analogy. Many modern dishwashers are equipped with sensors that assess soil residue in the water. These appliances will operate for two or more hours if necessary until they “sense” that the water is free of food fragments. They stop only when the dinnerware is thoroughly cleaned.

Likewise we should, in effect, employ the “sensor” of God’s Holy Spirit to inspect ourselves continually for sinful thoughts and actions (2 Corinthians 13:5). We need to be highly sensitive to the dirt of sin by allowing the Bible’s words to purify our minds and hearts (Romans 12:2).

Finally, let’s remember the effort Josephine Cochrane expended for 30 years to bring people the ease and hygiene of the dishwasher. Yet more importantly, let’s dedicate ourselves to becoming spiritually clean as we work closely with our Heavenly Father to cleanse the inside of our “cup and dish.” If we do, we will become His deeply loved and cherished sons and daughters in His coming Kingdom. Now, are you ready to take action?



    I am enjoying this site very much...started the Bible Study today and was pleasantly surprised...I have never been able to find a study I enjoyed like I did this one...I'm not working at the moment so it being free is a blessing...thank you and have a wonderfully blessed day!

  • Gayle Hoefker

    Thanks for the excellent analogy! Every time I wash dishes, I will think about cleaning myself, too. The comparisons were effective.

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