Picking and Choosing

We are all taught as children the importance of washing our hands – before you eat, when you’ve been to the toilet, when you’ve touched pets, as well as when they’re dirty.  When there’s a public health scare, we are reminded of them, when norovirus hits, during the bird-flu epidemic or any time you visit a hospital – all very sensible health precautions to stop germs spreading.

It was a practised by the people of Jesus day too…

Mark 7:1-13

The Teaching of the Ancestors

 1Some Pharisees and several teachers of the Law of Moses from Jerusalem came and gathered around Jesus. 2They noticed that some of his disciples ate without first washing their hands.

    3The Pharisees and many other Jewish people obey the teachings of their ancestors. They always wash their hands in the proper way before eating. 4None of them will eat anything they buy in the market until it is washed. They also follow a lot of other teachings, such as washing cups, pitchers, and bowls.

5The Pharisees and teachers asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples obey what our ancestors taught us to do? Why do they eat without washing their hands?”

6Jesus replied:

You are nothing but show-offs! The prophet Isaiah was right when he wrote that God had said,

“All of you praise me

with your words,

but you never really

think about me.

7It is useless for you

to worship me,

when you teach rules

made up by humans.”

8You disobey God’s commands in order to obey what humans have taught. 9You are good at rejecting God’s commands so that you can follow your own teachings! 10Didn’t Moses command you to respect your father and mother? Didn’t he tell you to put to death all who curse their parents? 11But you let people get by without helping their parents when they should. You let them say that what they own has been offered to God. 12You won’t let those people help their parents. 13And you ignore God’s commands in order to follow your own teaching. You do a lot of other things that are just as bad.

…except that the clue is there that we are talking about something more than regular hygiene, but something that had become another set of complex rules to follow, concentrating more on what was done and how, than why.

They always wash their hands in the proper way (Mark 7:3),

and

They also follow a lot of other teachings, such as washing cups, pitchers, and bowls. (Mark 7:4)

They quickly jump on Jesus’ disciples for not washing their hands, not it appears because they are worried for their health, but because they are not

obeying what our ancestors taught us.

They are not playing by the accepted rules – again!

Jesus cuts right through all their blustering – this isn’t about keeping God’s laws, but about having an opportunity to show off.  Then he turns it right around.  They are, apparently, so concerned about this law, doing something that everyone can see; but not nearly so concerned about the law of looking after their elderly parents!  People were claiming that they couldn’t help, because what they had was “offered to God”.  What a cop-out!  If their belongings were really offered to God, they would be using them to support those in need.

And so the question hangs, how can they be so meticulous about some things, and totally lax about others?

They were picking and choosing which of God’s laws they would make a fuss about – and making their choices by public display rather than helping those in need.

Do we pick and choose which of God’s ways we are going to follow and which we will ignore?

Are we more impressed with public showy acts than with real sacrificial giving to those in need – which we probably will never know about?  Are we more concerned with tradition, than God’s commands? Do we praise God with words, whilst not thinking about our actions?

Something for us to reflect on?…

Lord

forgive me the times

when I blinded by the grand looking things I see people do,

without considering if the rest of their life measures up.

Forgive me

when I am more concerned about looking good,

than behaving as you ask me to.

Forgive me

that I pick and choose

which of your requirements I follow.

Lord,

may my worship of you

not be about good sounding words,

but true and good actions.

This year, I am again following the Big Read using Tom Wright’s Lent for Everyone – Mark.  I’ll reflect here – if you’re following it too, or even if you’re not, please share with me.

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