Read the Bible in 2011 ◊ Week 6: Saturday
“And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:
‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS,
BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.
BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME,
TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’”
Jesus confronts the Pharisees with these words in today’s Bible reading of Matthew 14–16. This is from the third section of Matthew which began in chapter 11 and continues through chapter 18.
The Pharisees have just come with an accusatory question for Jesus about his disciples eating without washing their hands. Jesus answers with a question of His own, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” He goes on to recite God’s commands regarding parents that the Pharisees disobeyed. They did not care for their parents and justified their refusal by stating that whatever help they could have given was given to God. R. E. Nixon explains the custom:
“Matthew omits the technical word ‘Corban’ which occurs in Mark, as he does also the explanation of Jewish customs. Something could be dedicated to the Temple and the owner could still enjoy the proceeds of it, rather than having any obligation towards his parents.”1
The Pharisees were obviously trying to have their cake and eat it, too, without regard for the plight of their parents. By invalidating God’s Word for the sake of their tradition, they placed themselves above God. Their disobedience was bad enough, but they cloaked their sin with spirituality as they used an excuse that sounded righteous to make it appear as if they were pleasing God.
Jesus exposed their lip service and the reality of their hearts. I’m not sure who the Pharisees thought they were deluding. I doubt they deceived all of their contemporaries (Lincoln’s maxim about fooling the people comes to mind), and I know they did not deceive God. Perhaps some deluded themselves, but the bottom line is that none of these men wanted their heart exposed.
Jesus then calls the crowd to Him; He wants them to understand that it’s not what goes into a man’s mouth that defiles him, but what proceeds from his mouth that defiles him. As you can readily believe, the Pharisees take offense at this—that’s when Jesus uses His famous analogy and states the Pharisees are the blind leading the blind.
Christians sin. The question to think about from this passage in Matthew is, do we cloak our sin with spirituality? Or do we repent? Do we honor God with only our lips? How important is appearance to us? More important than honoring God? Pretension is deadly, not only to ourselves, but to others, especially for those under our care or leadership, whether they are our children or adults. It engenders resentment and bitterness; feelings easily transferred to God.
When you read the Gospels watch to see how Jesus’ words and deeds exposed hearts: some reacted in repentance—others in anger. What’s your reaction?
Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
1R. E. Nixon, “Matthew,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds.,
A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., p. 836.
The Blind in the Ditch (Les aveugles dans le fossé), James Tissot: No known copyright restrictions.
Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter