Read Mark 7:1-8:38
Stinking To High Heaven
Jesus said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.
In vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines commandments
of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God,
you hold the tradition of men…”
Go Deep: As Jesus began to preach and minister the Kingdom of God, conflict with the Pharisees, religious leaders and other “stakeholders” in traditional Judaism increased dramatically. They didn’t like the fact that Jesus wasn’t holding to their traditions at all—and Jesus wasn’t intimidated by their pressure to conform.
Though there were many “violations” that disturbed them, in this particular conflict, they were upset that his disciples didn’t go through ritual washing before eating. When they questioned Jesus about it, he let loose a holy tirade against their ridiculous traditions, giving us an open window through which we can see what is truly irksome to God: Shallow, hypocritical, spiritually incongruent religiosity.
Jeremy Taylor writes, “The Pharisees minded what God spoke, but not what He intended…They were busy in the outward work of the hand, but incurious of the affections and choice of the heart. So God was served in the letter, they did not much inquire into His purpose; and therefore they were curious to wash their hands, but cared not to purify their hearts.”
God wasn’t impressed with the Pharisees, nor is he impressed with your rituals; he wants to be in relationship with you. Holding on to tradition for the sake of tradition is meaningless to God; he wants your acts of worship to be authentic. Lips that affirm one thing but a heart that holds to something else is completely odious to God—it stinks to high heaven, literally!
God desires integrity in our behavior, intimacy in our walk with him, and authenticity in our worship practices. Spirituality devoid of integrity, intimacy, and authenticity is even more repulsive to God than people who know they are sinners and don’t try to hide the fact.
Now there is an obvious application to this particular reading: God wants your heart. And he wants the heart you offer him to be pure. But let me suggest a riskier application of this text, as well as all the other accounts of Jesus’ confrontations with the Pharisees: Rather than reading them and feeling a sense of spiritual justification, why not read yourself into the story as one of the Pharisees. You see, the longer you are in the faith, the greater the likelihood that you will slip into some of the very practices God found so odious in the religious establishment of Jesus’ day.
Whatever it takes, keep your relationship with God fresh and vital!
Just Saying… John McClintock was right: “The Pharisees are not all dead yet, and are not all Jews.”