October 19 (Daily reading: Matthew 15; Mark 7) “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men” (Mk. 7:8). That one phrase says so much! In our country’s legalized position on abortion, or on sexuality, have we not placed human tradition over God’s word? And in our individual practices, are we guilty of placing what is acceptable to our peers over what is acceptable to our God? Jesus could refer to Isaiah’s prophecy to condemn us just as He did to condemn the religious leaders of His day: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Mt. 15:8, NIV, quoting Is. 29:13). The Pharisees were more concerned about ritual hand washing than about the evil in their hearts.
Jesus gave an example of their hypocrisy. They held to a practice of “corban,” when they would devote financial resources to the temple instead of taking care of their elderly parents. Jesus accused them of violating the commandment to “honor your father and mother” (Mt. 15:4; Ex. 20:12). He also spoke to His audience that day about the question of ritual cleansing. “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man” (Mt. 15:11).
The disciples later told Jesus that He had offended the Pharisees. He responded that the Pharisees offered spiritual leadership, but they were spiritually blind: “And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Mt. 15:14). Jesus explained to the disciples that He was speaking about the heart of man. It is what comes out of the mouth that reveals what is in the heart, and defiles a person, and not what goes into the mouth. We should follow Peter’s advice: “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts” (1 Pet. 3:15).
– Al Gary