Prepare to Listen. This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
Prayerfully Read Matthew 15:1-9
Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2‘Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands before they eat.’ 3He answered them, ‘And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4For God said, “Honour your father and your mother,” and, “Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.” 5But you say that whoever tells father or mother, “Whatever support you might have had from me is given to God”, then that person need not honour the father. 6So, for the sake of your tradition, you make void the word of God. 7You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said:
8“This people honours me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
9in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.” ’
Washing hands before eating seems a trivial issue to get upset about and make a long journey from Jerusalem to Galilee. But the scribes and Pharisees were so upset they made the journey. Did they fear this would be the slippery slope, the beginning of a decline away from their version of truth? They were so focused on their human tradition they failed to see it wasn’t even biblical. Jesus saw and challenged them: “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” For that matter, why do we today? Let’s be honest, it’s comforting to cling to familiar opinions and maintain the status quo. We resist the uncomfortable work of thinking about true biblical and kingdom priorities.
Jesus had harsh words for his questioners. He called them hypocrites, unbiblical. They were like the ones Isaiah spoke about, he said, who honored God with their lips, while their hearts were far from God. Their worship of God was “a human commandment learned by rote.” Isaiah warned that God will do “shocking and amazing” things—wisdom will perish, discernment be hidden (Is. 29:13f). In other words, they wouldn’t be able to see or know the truth. They’re tough words that should cause us to pause and reflect on our traditions, the stuff we’ve invested in. Are they really kingdom priorities? Are they even biblical?
What are your traditions and causes that you fear might slip away? Are they kingdom priorities? If not, let them go.
Respond in Prayer
Forgive me, Lord for pushing my opinions without first examining whether they are in line with your priorities; for worshiping you with my lips and not my heart. Help me choose today the discomfit of thought so that I live more in line with your ways. Amen.
Live Obediently. Chose the discomfort of thinking over the comfort of opinions.
Despite having frequently read and taught Matthew's Gospel, preparing these daily devotions, taking that second gaze, has surprised me with newness.