Scripture: Matthew 15:1-9 [NLT]
1 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, 2 “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”
3 He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 5 But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— 6 then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. 7 Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:
8 ‘ These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
9 And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
Observation: (What do you see when you read this scripture?)
Once again the Pharisees challenge Jesus because of something that his disciples are not doing “right”. Before it had been “working” on the Sabbath by rolling wheat in their hands and eating it. Now they are being accused of ignoring the traditions of their fore fathers or elders by not washing their hands before they eat.
The Pharisees, by practice, believed that by following the traditions of the elders before them they were accessing a repository of knowledge of the wise men who preceded them.
Notice that Jesus does not defend the disciples lack of hand washing but instead turns the questioning back on the Pharisees by asking them why they transgress the law of God by keeping the traditions of men. This was a common practice of rabbis to answer a question with a counter question. Also note that Jesus answers his own counter question starting in verse 4. Jesus is here referring to a loophole that the religious leaders had created regarding the law to honor your father and mother. They had made it possible to set aside possessions and wealth for “sacred” use only, thus nullifying the requirement to use it to care for ones parents.
Jesus is not “easy” on them. Why? He is so tender with others…what makes him so hard on the Pharisees? My personal opinion; it is their hypocrisy that is such a vile thing to Jesus. Hypocrisy has such an evil influence on the person “practicing” it and also on those around them. The hypocrite is not allowed, by his/her own devising, to see their own sinfulness because it is hidden under hypocrisy. Hypocrisy, boiled down to it’s finer point, is the worship of God without really worshiping God. Ultimately you end up paying homage to a God of your own making, thus only worshiping with your lips and not your heart. It leads to following man’s law and not God’s. It is a matter of the heart; so check your heart!
Application: (How does this scripture effect you today?)
David understood this potential in all of us, especially himself. We find in Psalm 139:23-24 one of his most important prayers; specifically dealing with the state of his heart.
Psa 139:23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.Psa 139:24 Point out anything in me that offends You, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Jer 17:9 “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?