Summary: If success is pleasing God, and God is not pleased with all kinds of external forms and activities, where the heart is far from him, than it follows that the only road to spiritual success is the road to inner space.
Henry Brown prayed for a way to escape. He was a slave in Richmond, Virginia, and
desperately wanted to be free. He finally felt his prayer was answered when he was
inspired by a unique idea. He had the plantation carpenter construct a box the same size
of the largest boxes that were shipped in that day. He then poked three holes in this three
foot by two foot crate, and then he got inside. The box was taken to the express office,
and from there it was taken by a baggage car to a steam boat, and finally transferred to a
wagon which brought him to Philadelphia and to freedom. There was many a time when
he longed to cry out for help, but he was resolved to be free, or to die trying. When the
people he was mailed to opened the crate, he stood up and fainted. It was a hard price to
pay, but he made his escape.
Escape is a word and experience we are all familiar with, but in the 1950's a new word
developed that we are not very familiar with: The word is inscape. It is opposite of
escape, in some ways, in that it refers, not to getting out of something, but of getting into
something. It is not a fleeing away, but a fleeing within. On the other hand, it is very
much like escape, in that its goal is also freedom. Henry Brown used escape as the means
of getting his freedom. But many could mail themselves to anywhere in the world, and
still not be free, because their slavery is of a different kind. They are like the Pharisees;
enslaved to external values.
1. What do people think of me?
2. How is my external image?
3. How can I make the outside appear right?
4. How can I win the approval of men?
Their self-esteem and worth were tied directly to their popularity with men. They
were slaves to the crowd, and this influenced every thing they did. They developed a
fish-bowl religious life, for what good was it to be religious if people did not see. The
external was everything. Whatever veneer made it look good was all that mattered. We
probably would have liked the Pharisees, for they fit the Western culture, and are far
more appealing to us than most Eastern holy men and mystics. The poet describes the
contrast of the East and West in their religious method.
In Eastern lands the holiest gents
Are those who live at least expense,
They rarely speak; they seek release
From active life in prayer and peace.
But in the Western hemisphere
A saint must catch the public ear,
And rush about, and shout and bustle
Combining holiness and hustle.
We are in a culture where the external outweighs the internal in our religious value system.
We cannot help that, but we can prevent becoming slaves to it. That is what
Jesus is teaching His disciples to do in relation to the Pharisaical external system. How
do you escape the domination of the external? Jesus says the answer is inscape. You
don't run away from it, or mail yourself off to a monastery, or a society of mystics, but
you strive for a balance by developing your inner world.
If success is pleasing God, and God is not pleased with all kinds of external forms and
activities, where the heart is far from him, than it follows that the only road to spiritual
success is the road to inner space. We are caught up in our focus on outer space, and
that is awesome and wondrous, and leads to worship, because the more we know of the
magnitude of God's creation, the more we marvel at His majesty. This is good, and it is
to be pursued, but if it is the only road we travel, God is seen as a Sovereign King, but we
miss the intimacy of knowing God as heavenly Father. This vital aspect of the God-man
relationship calls for the conquering of inner space. Jesus says we must get away from
the crowd, and get alone with God.
Alfred North Whitehead said, "Religion is what the individual does with his own
solitariness....Thus religion is solitariness, and if you are never solitary, you are never
religious." In the light of what Jesus is teaching, this is true, if we add one word-if you
are never solitary, you are never successfully religious. The Pharisees were religious, but
not successfully. There religion pleased men but not God, and so it was not successful.
Giving, praying, fasting, can all be religious activities, but only when they please God are
they successful activities, and since Jesus says they cannot please God if they are only
external, and not matters of the inner life, then it follows, no one can be a success at