Read Mark 7
Focus on verse 6-8
On of the stories I remember reading when I was a child, was one of Aesop’s fables about a dog that stole a juicy piece of beefsteak from the local butcher shop. As he was escaping with his meal, he had to cross a bridge over a small mirror smooth lake in the park. As he crossed the bridge he happened to see his reflection in the water below. Not realizing it was his own reflection; he thought he was looking at another dog that was holding what appeared to be a big juicy steak in his mouth. Being a rather greedy dog, he opened his mouth to snatch the steak from that other dog. Of course, as he did the steak he had in his own mouth dropped into the water and was gone. The poor dog had exchanged the real thing for an illusion and ended up with nothing.
In today’s reading Jesus admonishes the hypocrisy of the Pharisees who were questioning him about why his disciples were not ceremonially washing their hands before they ate according to the Jewish law. Jesus response to them is rather terse and pointed.
And he 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 do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
You leave the command of God and hold to the tradition of men.” (v. 6-8)
Apparently the Pharisees were masters of finding what they thought were loopholes in God’s law so that they could justify their actions when it suited them. At the same time they would make a big deal out of catching someone breaking any of the man made laws they had added to God’s law, which in many cases also served their own financial advancement.
As I consider what we have done in some of our churches with what Jesus entrusted for us to carry forward, it would seem to me that if Jesus were to visit some of our church meetings, He might have a similar message for us. Particularly here in America, we have made church into big business. What begins as a genuine desire to reach people with the freedom and peace of the message of eternal life, turns into a multi-million dollar enterprise concerned primarily with filling seats with paying customers where we “honor Him with our lips, but our hearts are far from Him.”
Somehow this trade off just doesn’t seem like a good deal, yet for some reason we continue to fall for it.