|Dress of a Pharisee|
TO CHEW ON: " ' Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.' " Mark 7:13
You've probably heard the story of the young wife who cut the end off every roast before placing it in the oven. When her husband quizzed her about it, she said that's what her mom did. Mom said she did it because that's what her mother did. Grandma finally solved the mystery. "My roasting pan was too small," she said. "The roast didn't fit unless I cut the end off."
The religious pharisaic traditions we hear about in today's reading are just as binding and buried in history. Jesus names two: hand washing and Corban.
The ritual hand washing tradition came about when Jewish religious leaders decided it would please God if all people followed the hand washings done by the priests making the temple sacrifices. As well, "The Pharisees taught that religious defilement could be spread by touch, so they prescribed elaborate ceremonies of cleansing" - J. Lyle Story, notes on Mark, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1362.
"'Corban' means withdrawing something from its intended use as though it were an offering made to God" - Ibid. After a person had declared Corban over his property, he could continue to use it himself for as long as he lived but couldn't transfer its use to anyone else. Thus if he changed his mind and wished to move his parents onto that piece of property or sell it for cash, the law of Corban made that impossible.
These traditions offend Jesus. Later on in the chapter He teaches about real filthiness and how to be cleansed from it (Mark 7:18-23). In our reading He scolds the leaders for not allowing the people to obey the moral law of honouring parents with their man-made tradition law of Corban.
I see at least two lessons for me—and all of us—to learn here:
1. We need to be aware of any tradition or custom that would cause us to break God's moral law. For example, does the violation of our church's (unwritten) dress code cause us to be unfriendly to those who come in dressed, say, for the beach? Jesus wants to love the world through us (John 3:16).
2. We need to be aware of any system of rules or traditions that tell us this is what one needs to do to please God. This makes our faith a system of works, not grace. Even a tradition of church attendance and Bible reading could function in this way, reassuring us we've earned God favour. But that's not how it's done: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" - Ephesians 2:8,9.
PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to recognize the unhelpful traditions in my life and escape their hold on me. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.