You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions. Mark 7:8
An Atlanta police officer asked a driver if she knew why he’d stopped her. “No idea!” she said in bewilderment. “Ma’am, you were texting while driving,” the officer gently told her. “No, no!” she protested, holding up her cell phone as evidence. “It’s an email.”
Using a cell phone to send an email doesn’t grant us a loophole from a law that prohibits texting while driving! The point of the law isn’t to prevent texting; it’s to prevent distracted driving.
Jesus accused the religious leaders of His day of creating far worse loopholes. “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God,” He said, quoting the command to “Honor your father and mother” as evidence (Mark 7:9–10). Under the hypocritical cloak of religious devotion, these wealthy leaders were neglecting their families. They simply declared their money as “devoted to God,” and voila, no need to help Mom and Dad in their old age. Jesus quickly got to the heart of the problem. “You nullify the word of God by your tradition,” He said (v. 13). They weren’t honoring God; they were dishonoring their parents.
Rationalization can be so subtle. With it we avoid responsibilities, explain away selfish behavior, and reject God’s direct commands. If that describes our behavior, we’re merely deceiving ourselves. Jesus offers us the opportunity to exchange our selfish tendencies for the guidance of the Spirit behind His Father’s good instructions.
In what areas of your life do you find yourself rationalizing? How do these rationalizations square with the wisdom of the Bible?
God, I need Your wise discernment. Rescue me from my denial of my own guilt. Help me live in step with Your Spirit.
The weight of Jesus’ indictment of the religious leaders (Mark 7:1, 5), the Pharisees and scribes, becomes even more striking when we explore the words He used. He called them “hypocrites” (hypokritēs, v. 6). These religious leaders appeared to be something that they weren’t. They had “let go of the commands of God and [were] holding on to human traditions” (v. 8). The word translated “let go of” (aphiēmi) is widely used in the New Testament and includes the idea of “sending away” or “releasing.” Though they had “let go” of God’s authoritative commands, they were “holding on to” (krateō) their traditions. Another word that brings the error of the religious gatekeepers into focus is “nullify” (akyroō, a legal term for “to invalidate,” v. 13). Adherents to any system where “tradition” trumps God’s “truth” are ripe for rebuke.