Matthew 15; Mark 7
The Pharisees were upset because Jesus’ disciples weren’t washing their hands before they ate. Jews had been taught for centuries that eating before carefully washing, defiled them. Now here were the people closest to Jesus breaking that tradition.
I like Jesus’ response: Neglecting the commandments of God, you hold to the tradition of men. (Mark 7:8)
Jesus went on to explain that the thing which defiles a person is what comes out of a sinful heart, not by what someone eats. What defiles a person is a heart fed on evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. (vv 21-22)
Too often we get hung up on the outward appearance. A person who wants to appear religious can go to church, may even give generously to charity, pray in public, or be quick to say, “Praise Jesus.” But that same person might be ingesting raunchy TV shows, ungodly websites and music lyrics, laughing at dirty jokes. Their conversation reveals their heart’s condition when they use the language, tell the jokes, and think nothing of it. They look like a traditional Christian. But are they truly living according to God’s commandments?
Jesus isn’t against tradition. But He does speak against holding on to tradition for tradition’s sake, and ignoring the Truth of Scripture plus nothing. Does a person raise his hands during the song service? Ok. Does someone pierce their ears, or nose? Ok. Does your church use the organ instead of a praise band? Ok. Do you prefer the NIV over the King James version of the Bible? Ok.
I think Jesus is asking us to look past the external and check our hearts condition before our Holy God. When you look inside yourself, do you see the holiness God demands of you?
Or are you defiled by what is there?
Dear God, Sometimes we waste so much time on the non-essentials. I think Satan loves when we debate music styles. Or debate the length of a woman’s hair. Or how often we should celebrate Communion or whether our denomination is identified in our church’s name. Satan must love it when we begin to sound like Pharisees. Lord, I pray that Your people will be more concerned about our hearts’ condition than about anything else. It’s what You said was more important to You. It’s what ought to be more important to us.