READ | Mark 7:1-23
1 Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem.
2 And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.
3 For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders.
4 And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.
5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?
6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Isaiah prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctines the commandments of men.
8 For laying aside the commandment of יהוה,ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of יהוה,that ye may keep your own tradition.
10 For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:
11 But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.
12 And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;
13 Making the word of יהוה of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
14 And when he had called all the people unto him, he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one of you, and understand:
15 There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.
16 If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.
17 And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.
18 And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;
19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?
20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.
21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,
22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:
23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
Has your mother taught you to wash your hands before you eat? Now you can tell her that Yahushua is against her rule, right? Wrong! The Pharisees washed their hands before eating, but not to cleanse themselves of germs, because they didn’t know about germs two thousand years ago. They washed their hands to obey their tradition, believing that if they ate with unwashed hands, they would become defiled and unacceptable to God. That small error in their thinking wouldn’t have been so bad, except that their misconception about what made them acceptable or unacceptable to God extended much farther. Some of the traditions they kept actually violated God’s Word. Thus, as Yahushua said, they rejected God’s specific laws and substituted their own traditions. Obeying man-made rules, they disobeyed God’s rules.
One example of this was their breaking of the fifth commandment: “Honor your father and mother.” The Pharisees taught that a person didn’t have to help his needy parents if he vowed to give his money to God. Because they were lovers of money (see Luke 16:14), this tradition was probably designed to increase their own personal wealth. The Pharisees wouldn’t have to spend their money supporting their elderly parents, plus, other people vowed to give their money to the Pharisees to support “God’s work” rather than help their parents. This was just one of many examples of how the Pharisees broke God’s law in order to protect their own traditions.
Many churches today are guilty of this same sin—exalting their own traditions above God’s laws. As a result, people who keep the traditions think they’re acceptable to God, even though they break many of His commandments. They attend church every week, say the right things at the right times during the service, receive communion, and think that makes them acceptable to God. But the rest of the week, they lie, steal and take God’s name in vain. They’re full of lust, hatred and pride. And just like the Pharisees, they’ll spend eternity in hell unless they come to their senses, truly repent and begin to follow Yahushua. When they do, their lives will change dramatically.
Yahushua went on to explain that what a person eats is not what makes him acceptable or unacceptable to God. It is what a person does and says. Unfortunately, even some Christians have fallen into deception in this regard, over-emphasizing the importance of what we eat, and sometimes even claiming that we must follow the dietary laws of the Old Testament. Thinking they are more pleasing to God, they look down on other Christians who don’t also restrict their diets. But today we read that Yahushua declared that every kind of food is acceptable to eat (see Mark 7:19). Let’s be careful that we don’t become sidetracked by minor things. God wants His people to live according to His, not our, standards of holiness.
Q. Because Yahushua declared all foods are acceptable for us to eat, does that mean it would be OK for us to subsist on a diet of candy bars and Cokes?
A. When Yahushua lived on the earth, there were no such things as candy bars and Cokes. In fact, there were not any foods that were processed like the many foods available to us today. In their natural state as God created them, all foods are acceptable for us to eat and contribute to our physical well-being. But foods that have been altered and stripped of their nutritional value are in a different category. There are many nutrients that are essential for our bodies to remain healthy, and a wise Christian will see that his diet contains all the nutrients he needs.
Q. Have you ever met someone who thinks they’re holier than you because they keep certain rules that can’t be found anywhere in the Bible? What do you think Yahushua would say to them?
APPLICATION: Like the people in yesterday’s reading, the Pharisees of today’s reading were more concerned with physical rather than spiritual things, and concentrated more on external rather than internal things. Without neglecting the physical and external, God wants us to be more concerned about the spiritual and internal.