Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.
Mark 7:1-23 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered to Him after they came from Jerusalem, 2 and saw that some of His disciples were eating their bread with unholy hands, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the other Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thereby holding firmly to the tradition of the elders; 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they completely cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received as traditions to firmly hold, such as the washing of cups, pitchers, and copper pots.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk in accordance with the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with unholy hands?” 6 But He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written:
honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me.
7 And in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
8 Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”
9 He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘The one who speaks evil of father or mother, is certainly to be put to death’; 11 but you say, ‘If a person says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is, given to God),’ 12 you no longer allow him to do anything for his father or his mother; 13 thereby invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”
14 After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside the person which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which come out of the person are what defile the person.”
17 And when He later entered a house, away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him about the parable. 18 And He said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding as well? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the person from outside cannot defile him, 19 because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thereby He declared all foods clean.) 20 And He was saying, “That which comes out of the person, that is what defiles the person. 21 For from within, out of the hearts of people, come the evil thoughts, acts of sexual immorality, thefts, murders, acts of adultery, 22 deeds of greed, wickedness, deceit, indecent behavior, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile the person.”
There are people today who claim they are Christians, but say, do and believe what is contrary and opposed to what Jesus said. They say that if Jesus were here today He would accept, tolerate and even embrace the immorality, evil and wickedness of our culture and society. In today’s text Jesus plainly says: “That which comes out of the person, that is what defiles the person. For from within, out of the hearts of people, come the evil thoughts, acts of sexual immorality, thefts, murders, acts of adultery, deeds of greed, wickedness, deceit, indecent behavior, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile the person.” Jesus would not embrace today, the very things He suffered on the cross two thousand years ago to redeem us from. The changing whims of our culture and society do not determine what is good and right. Goodness and righteousness are determined by the unchanging God of creation.
In the text, the religious leaders criticized Jesus for not holding to and conforming to the traditions of men and the preferences of society. Jesus answered saying: “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites, as it is written: “This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. And in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.” Just because something is determined to be legal by the governmental leaders, does not mean that it honors God. James 1:21-22 says: Ridding yourselves of all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves. Being a Christian is about more than just saying that we believe. It is about what we do because we believe. In John 14:15 Jesus says: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Those who claim to be Christians but do and say what is opposed to God’s commandments, neither fool others nor God, instead they deceive themselves. In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus says: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; leave Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”
In Isaiah 5:20 God says: Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Again, for those who think that what God says would be updated to suit the whims of our culture and society, in Matthew 5:17-20 Jesus says: “Do not presume that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter shall pass from the Law, until all is accomplished! Therefore, whoever nullifies one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness far surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” According to Jesus, there are many today, in our society, our government and sadly even in the church, who shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.
Beyond our current time, even at the end of the age, In Revelation 21:5-8 the Lord says: “Behold, I am making all things new. These words are faithful and true. It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give water to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life, without cost. The one who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and sexually immoral persons, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” It is not what is right that is made new. Even at the end of the age, what God said will remain true. There will be: Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
May the words of the psalmist in Psalm 51:7-13 be our declaration and prayer: Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; Cleanse me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness, Let the bones You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins And wipe out all my guilty deeds. Create in me a clean heart, God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach wrongdoers Your ways, And sinners will be converted to You. Amen.