Monday, July 7, 2014

The Attitude Matters More Than The Action

Matthew 15:1-20

”Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.” (Matthew 15:1-2)

Up to this point Jesus ministry had been in the region of Galilee and had been largely ignored by the religious leaders in Jerusalem, although many of the common people flocked to hear him.  When they finally took notice, it was over the same issue that the local leaders had challenged him on in Matthew 12:1-8.

In the passage in Matthew 12, the Pharisees had believed the disciples actually violated the law and Jesus pointed out that the Law provided for such things. The scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem were not concerned with whether the disciples had violated the law, but only that they had violated the traditions or standards the Pharisees had set.  They placed their own standards ahead of what God had said, and Jesus answered them accordingly.

“But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? Mt 15:4 For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.  But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.” (Matthew 15:3-6)

He pointed out that their various schools of interpretation such as that started by Shamai in 47 BC or Hillel in 6 BC promoted traditions that were diametrically opposed to the law God had given.  While God commanded people to respect and honor their parents, the Pharisee’s traditional interpretations allowed him to disclaim such responsibility.  The parents owed the kids and anything the kids did to help them was just a gift rather than a responsibility, very similar to the attitude in America today.  If the child chose not to do his chores or help out, he was considered within his rights.  By taking that position, the Pharisees had placed their traditions ahead of God’s law. 

“Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matthew 15:7-9)

In claiming to promote God’s standard by demanding people follow their tradition when it in fact contradicted God’s law was hypocritical.  As Jesus said, they talked like they were really serving God while in reality, they were disobeying him at every turn.  All their religious activities were a meaningless waste of time and energy.  The same Pharisaical attitude is prevalent today, with groups establishing their own standards and demanding other s keep them while ignoring what God has said.

“And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? ” (Matthew 15:10-12)

Jesus then told the crowd that eating food the wasn’t approved or drinking alcohol would not send anyone to hell.  It wasn’t what they put into their bodies that was the problem, but what came out.  The Pharisees were upset that Jesus so directly contradicted them. 

“But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.  Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” (Matthew 15:13-14)

Jesus said everything which wasn’t from God would be pulled up like a gardener pulling weeds.  The Pharisees who thought they were the spiritual leaders had no more understanding of what God wanted than they people they were trying to lead.  Instead of helping them avoid problems they would just lead them back into more of the same.  Because they are blind, the followers don’t realize the leaders are also bling and so follow eagerly, thoroughly expecting to escape the problems.

”Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable.
And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?  Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?  But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.” (Matthew 15:15-20)

As Jesus explained to the disciples, the problem is not the mere external actions a person does, but heart attitude that causes him to do them.  The actions themselves are quickly forgotten, but the attitude affect everything the person does. 

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