Scripture reading: Matthew 15:1-20
The Pharisees really had a lot of hang-ups. Most of them had nothing to do with the way religious acts were done. They had a rules for just about everything. Most of those rules had little or nothing to do with anything pertaining to God.
For some reason men appear to be attracted to rules. Probably because they make life easier and less complex. They know what is expected of them. Although mindful of the rules laid down by the Father (Ten Commandments), Jesus had little time for man-made rules. This particular exchange is quite instructive for us today.
The Pharisees, in essence, told Jesus, “Your boys don't play by the rules.” Specifically, “They don't do the ceremonial hand washing before they eat.” These rules came from reference to Scripture, but they were created and embellished by tradition.
Jesus response was something to the effect of, “You boys don't even know the rules!” He went on to say, “You transgress the commandments of God by your tradition.” Jesus points out the clever way that had been devised to get out of caring for their parents. We sure do figure out excuses for not doing the things we should, don't we?
The bottom line is the Pharisees were guilty of hardcore hypocrisy. They were confused. Jesus indicated to them, '”You think you have it all straight, but it really is completely backward.” He even uses the Scripture to point out their situation (Isaiah 29:13):
Vs 7-9 Ye hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
The Pharisees knew a lot about God, but didn't know God. When we claim to honor God when our heart is far from Him, our worship means nothing. It's not enough to act religious. Our actions and attitudes must be sincere and from a true and right heart. If not, these words from Isaiah also describe us. It's not enough to study about religion or even to study the Bible. We must respond to God Himself!
So the question is raised, “Is it inside out or outside in?” You see it's not what goes into the mouth but rather what comes out of the mouth that defiles the man (Vs 11). Things that go into the mouth pass through the body; things that are in the man make their way out of the mouth (Vs 16-20)
Take a look at the response of the Pharisees. Look at it. The Pharisees got upset? Jesus seems to say, “So what?”
Jesus even brought to their attention this list of sins. Let's look at each one of these and define what they mean:
Evil thoughts – all thinking out of accord with genuine truth
Murders – the malice that leads to murder
Adulteries and fornications – all forms of moral impurity
Thefts – taking away the goods of others without their knowledge or consent
False witness – concealing truth or giving false information
Blasphemies – speaking evil of, to injure by words
Covetousness – wanting what someone else has, and wanting it badly enough to take it
Wickedness – a desire to injure others
Deceit – the desire to benefit one's self by doing injustice to others
Lasciviousness – unbridled sexual sins
An evil eye – looking for opportunities to do evil or to hurt others
Pride – an improper estimate of one's own importance
Foolishness – choosing bad ends and/or bad means of achieving them
So it becomes a matter of focus. Internal versus external. Spirit verses flesh. Big versus little. It's important to note this list of sins we went over doesn't keep us from salvation or cause us to lose our salvation – they just indicate the lack of salvation. They demonstrate the absence of a right heart.
There seems to be so much of the Pharisee is most modern churches and Christians today. There is so much emphasis on external factors such as how we dress or look, where we go, what we do or don't do, and things of this nature. Although there is surely some importance to these external issues, they often obliterate the real spiritual issues
Biblical Christianity is not outside in, but rather inside out.
Until next time...enjoy the journey.
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