Mark 7:1-13; 2 Samuel 17; Daniel 11:1-19
It seems like a simple concern to us today. The Pharisees just wanted to know why the disciples of Jesus didn’t wash their hands before they ate. The truth, though, is that the hand-washing the Pharisees were talking about was not the sanitizing hand washing talked about in the signs that say “Employees must wash hands before returning to work.” It was a ceremonial practice that told all those around “I’m cleansing myself from the common riff-raff because I am close to God and you’re not.” The Pharisees had developed this tradition and people quickly followed to show that they too were close to God. Except the disciples didn’t do that and the Pharisees used that against Jesus to imply that He wasn’t much of a teacher if His disciples wouldn’t even wash their hands. Maybe that helps us understand why Jesus lit into the Pharisees over what seemed like a simple concern. “He said to them, ‘All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.’” (Mark 7:9) All of our denominations have traditions that could fall into that criticism. We use them to separate ourselves from the people who aren’t like us and make it a wedge to criticize others – especially those who are fellow believers. We may criticize the clothes they wear, the way they baptize, the food they eat or the music they use to worship. All of those, even if there is some justification from Scripture at one point or another, are secondary to people’s relationship with Christ. When we major on our traditions, we reject the commands of God and drive people away from the Kingdom. Our job is not to be a spiritual police force; our job is to be spiritual healers helping people restore their relationships with God.
Dear Lord, how often I expect people to worship and follow You just like I do. Remind me that my traditions are not necessarily commands from You. Remind me that my job is to help people restore relationships with You in Your way, not mine.