When Right Is Wrong

A daily devotion for January 12th

Read the Scripture: Mark 6:53-7:30
Mark 6:53-7:30

53When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. 54As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. 55They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.

1The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and 2saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were "unclean," that is, unwashed. 3(The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. 4When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)

5So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, "Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with 'unclean' hands?"

6He replied, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
" 'These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
7They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.' 8You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men."

9And he said to them: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' 11But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban' (that is, a gift devoted to God), 12then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. 13Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that."

14Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. 15Nothing outside a man can make him 'unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him 'unclean.' "

17After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. 18"Are you so dull?" he asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? 19For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.")

20He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' 21For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.' "

24Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. 25In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet. 26The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

27"First let the children eat all they want," he told her, "for it is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs."

28"Yes, Lord," she replied, "but even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs."

29Then he told her, "For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter."

30She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

New International Version
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He replied, Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men (Mark 7:6-7).

Those are insightful words. With our Lord's keen perceptiveness, He plunges right to the heart of the issue. When the Pharisees ask Him. Why do your disciples not observe the traditions? He points out to them, first of all, the effect that the observance of tradition has upon our lives. It produces hypocrites. You hypocrites, He says. I am sometimes amazed as I read through the gospels at the bluntness of Jesus' language! In fact, Matthew's account tells us that the disciples said to Him afterward, Do you realize that you offended those Pharisees?

But notice what He is doing here. He is pointing out the result of traditional worship. And He utilizes the word of the prophet Isaiah to show us what it is like. According to Isaiah, there is that which consists of right words but wrong attitudes. Everything outward is right, but inwardly the mind and heart are wrong. That, Jesus says, is hypocrisy--to look as if you are doing something religious and worshipful and God-related, but inside to have an entirely different attitude.

A few years ago, many of us were puzzled and offended when young people would say to us, in one way or another, We don't want to come to church because churches are filled with hypocrites. Some of us could not understand what they meant. We knew there might be some churches that were filled with hypocrites, but not ours! We had honest difficulty with this. We could not see where there was any hypocrisy in a thoroughly Bible-centered, evangelical church such as ours. But what they were saying was this: You use great words--wonderful words--but you don't really mean them. You talk about love, but you don't love. You talk about forgiveness, but you don't forgive. You talk about acceptance, but you don't accept. And they were right.

That is what tradition can do to us. It externalizes religion, makes it outward instead of inward. As long as we are fulfilling the prescribed outward form, we think we are acceptable before God. That is the terrible danger of tradition. This particular form that Isaiah mentions here--right words and wrong attitudes-is widespread among Christians. We all suffer from it at times, and we ought to recognize it and admit it. And it has resulted in what is probably the most deadly danger to the evangelistic message of the church--the self-righteousness of Christians--thinking that because we do things in the right way, and say the right words, and believe the right doctrines, we are thus pleasing to God.

Father, I confess the many, many times I have done the outward things with the inward heart far removed. Thank You that You know me, and You have already made provision for my forgiveness. Teach me to worship You in spirit and in truth.

Life Application: Hypocrisy is a routine accusation made against professing Christians. Are we taking this critique seriously? What is a major obstacle that deters us from authenticity?

We hope you were blessed by this daily devotion.

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