I’m thinking about how the Pharisees’ hypocrisy can teach us to love God’s Word.
Back then, they wanted to know why Jesus’ disciples weren’t following the “rules.” Before they sat down to eat, the disciples didn’t ceremonially clean their hands. Jesus’ response is that what comes out of us, our words and actions, make us unclean, not failing to ceremonially wash according to traditional rules.
But the Pharisees were master rule keepers. Besides the commandments God gave Moses, the Pharisees upheld a weighty list of dos and don’ts, accumulated through years of traditional practice, but not founded in God’s word.
These traditional rules were so cumbersome, in fact, that many people worked at finding loopholes in the rules. One loophole that Jesus points out to the Pharisees is this: even though God tells us to honor our father and mother, the Pharisees’ traditional rules allowed them to deny help when their parents asked for it, as long as they said that money or resource had already been promised to God.
The prophet Isaiah warned against this practice of relying on traditional rules rather than God’s Word, “The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught'” (Isaiah 29:13; NIV). Jesus says this plethora of traditional rules lead men astray, representing themselves as coming from God when they really come from the hearts of men.
"But whatever [word] comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this is what defiles and dishonors the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts and plans, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, slanders (verbal abuse, irreverent speech, blaspheming). These are the things which defile and dishonor the man; but eating with [ceremonially] unwashed hands does not defile the man.” Matthew 15:18-20 (amplified version)
Before we condemn the Pharisees for being hypocrites, we should look to our own record when it comes to living by the Word of God instead of being directed by how we think and feel. In the world that surrounds us, doing what feels right has rapidly outstripped doing what God says, so much so that even people who claim to be Christian okay behavior that the Bible says God hates.
But in order to live by God’s will rather than our own, we first have to know God’s Word. The Bible is our roadmap to thinking and acting in ways that please God. Paul underscores the importance of the Bible in this way:
"All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction, for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately–behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage]; so that the man of God may be complete and proficient, outfitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (amplified version)
Being human, we are destined to make choices based on our hearts, but that doesn’t mean we have to fail God. We can create hearts that will honor God rather than defile us by knowing God’s Word, studying it and living it so that what He says is ingrained in us. In this way, we will make choices that are clean in God’s eyes, not just our own.
Ramona Levacy Billingslea is a health writer and Christian novelist who loves God, loves her family, and loves words. She started writing her first novel when she was 8. Thanks to Kindle, she's published eight novels, all of which she hopes entertain as well as helping readers see practical ways to live a faith-filled life. When she isn't working on her writing, she earns her living helping her family's health food store with education, marketing, and whatever else needs done in a day.