Read: Mark 7
Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you”, for he wrote,” These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God. For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition”. (Mark 7:6-8)
What stinks? When people, especially spiritual influencers who ought to know better, exalt religious rituals over a real relationship with God, God holds his nose! When a religious activity is devoid of loving obedience, God finds it odious, obnoxious and he is repulsed by both the act and the religious spirit behind it.
That’s what Jesus was dealing with in this story. As he 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.
In this particular conflict, they were upset that his disciples didn’t go through ritual washing before eating. This was just one of many “violations” that upset them. When they questioned Jesus about it, he let loose a holy tirade against their ridiculous traditions. In a Divine “dressing down”, we see something of 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 onto 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—be very alert to that.
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: 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!
“The Pharisees are not all dead yet, and are not all Jews.” ~John McClintock
What If God Took Over?
Are the activities of your faith born out of ritualistic observance or loving obedience? Remember, God wants what you do with your hands to reflect the love that is in your heart. If that is not true for you, then back up and get your heart right!