One of Lao Tzu's most famous sayings is, “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be” 以其终不自为大,故能成其大. I understand this to mean that I will only achieve greatness by not considering myself to be great, regardless of how many accomplishments I have or how high a position I may hold. By emptying myself of pride and self righteousness, I let my achievements speak for themselves and focus on moving forward.


In today’s gospel reading, Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem (Luke 19:45-48). He cast out the merchants who made the temple a “den of thieves,” after which we learn that “every day he was teaching in the temple area.” In order for his followers to truly understand his teachings, Jesus first had to remove the clutter of material things and worldly desires so that the believers could better hear and understand the truth. They had to empty themselves of the materialism that would only bring on greed and jealousy so that they could be filled with Jesus’ teachings that would bring them peace and joy. There was not room for both.


Although this lesson can apply to church buildings today, I think it is better directed at our interior selves—temples in their own right. By washing myself clean of pride and materialism, I make space for God to enter my life to share his truths with me. In removing the clutter of the world and accepting my own humility, God gives me the strength and wisdom to go beyond my human limitations.


Writing in the 6th century BC, Lao Tzu left off in saying what we “might” become. Jesus goes beyond that by promising us what we “will” become when we follow him. It is much easier to let go of things knowing that there is much more for me to become.