How To Know If You Are A Legalist – Mark 7:1-13

Reflection from my reading in Mark 7:1-13 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

When Tools Become Rules…

Jesus had a confrontation with the religious leaders about the Jewish ritual of ceremonial hand washing before eating. The religious leaders wondered by Jesus’ disciples didn’t follow this age-old tradition of hand washing. Jesus said…

 “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.” Mark 7:6–7

Jesus is saying that the religious leaders and their followers became so focused on human traditions that their hearts grew distant from God. When tools become rules, people’s priorities get mixed up.

When keeping traditions becomes more important than commands to love God and love your neighbor as yourself you die spiritually.

Is This God’s Law or Human Tradition?

“You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” Mark 7:8

How foolish is it to focus on tools set up by men when we have God’s commands! 

Jesus gives the example of how they were given the command to “Honor your father and mother” but instead of helping their needy parents they choose to donate their money to God.  

In other words they choose to look spiritual by doing a tradition when the right thing to do would have been to take care of their parents! Jesus said this about them..

“Thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” Mark 7:13

Ironically in their attempts to serve God they are disobeying God’s word! 

It is easy to point the finger at the religious leaders here without asking ourselves this question…

Have we over emphasized helpful tools to the neglect of the most important commands?

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The Danger of Religious Traditions And Extra Rules – Matthew 15:1-20

Reflection from my reading in Matthew 15:1-20 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

Tradition! Tradition! Tradition!

 The religious leaders  came to test Jesus, attempting to get him in trouble for not following the traditions of the day. The tradition in question was the ceremonial washing of the hands before eating. They equated following human traditions with spiritual maturity. Basically they had elevated human traditions to the same level as God’s commands!

Tools Vs Rules

He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” Matthew 15:3

Jesus reprimanded them for focusing so much on human traditions that they we’re actually not obeying the simplest command to “Honor your father and mother.”

Traditions often start as helpful tools to help you follow God. The problems come when we elevate the tools to the same level as the actual rules.

When tools become rules, we become fools!

When the focus shifts to outward conformity, instead of inward transformation, legalism happens.

“ ‘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.’ ” Matthew 15:8–9

Legalism happens when the commands of men become as important as the commands of God.

No One Likes A Fake

Not only do those enslaved in legalism suffer under the unrealistic burdens, but non-believers look in and say, “If that is Christianity, I want no part of it!” The truth is that even those who pretend they are measuring up are just pretending. People can smell someone who is fake a mile away, and will stay away!

The Heart of the Matter

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” Matthew 15:17–20

Jesus cares most about the heart, because that is what really controls you. The good news is that Jesus offers us a new heart when we choose to repent of our sin, believe in his sacrificial death, and choose to follow him. Stick to the clear commands of scripture and don’t add or subtract from them. Focus on following Jesus with a pure heart instead of following human tradition.

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