This is part 9 of a multi-part series on the book of Mark.

Today, we’re in Mark 7:1-13.


Traditions can be great, so long as they are a means to an end. They become a problem when the means are forgotten and all ends with a tradition.

Some Pharisees gathered around Jesus, along with scribes who had come from Jerusalem (7:1). They saw some of Jesus’ disciples eating with unwashed hands and accused them of breaking the tradition of the elders and eating with defiled hands (7:5).

A Rebuke

Jesus shot back with very direct and harsh words:

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

‘These people honor me with their lips,

    but their hearts are far from me.

They worship me in vain;

    their teachings are merely human rules.’ (7:6-7 from Isaiah 29:13).

That is a stinging rebuke I never want to hear from Jesus: “you leave the commandments of God and hold to the tradition of men” (7:8).


Jesus then brings up the tradition of corban (devoted to God), where the Pharisees had apparently enabled Jews to devote property that would have gone to caring for their parents in old age instead to the temple, appearing to honor God but actually breaking His commandment to honor father and mother.

We have a tendency to over-spiritualize, acting (and maybe even convincing ourselves) as though we are honoring God but seeking rather to glorify ourselves. Jesus hated such practices, and preferred to stick with the very earthly and mundane command to honor one’s parents. Is it perhaps the case that in our individualistic culture, we dishonor our parents on the regular by allowing someone else to deal with them in old age and act like we are too busy because of our “ministry”? 


Jesus said the Jews did many such things (7:13), and most assuredly we do as well. Over-spiritualization plagues religious people of all stripes. We break Jesus’ intent for our lives when we are too busy serving in the building where the church meets—too busy to love our neighbors or raise our children or love and help our spouses.

We leave the places of our God-given influence (home, neighborhood, work) to spend more and more time in a building with a cross on top where most of our neighbors and co-workers will not go. Should we not instead use that time on Sunday morning to strengthen and equip the saints to go out into their homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces to demonstrate that we are subjects of another Kingdom?

Greg is the President of OPEN USA. He used his education to work as a tentmaker in the Middle East for 8.5 years seeking to plant a church amongst a least-reached people group. Currently back in the USA with his wife and children, they aim to return to finish what the LORD used them to start.

To learn more about B4T, read Business for Transformation by Patrick Lai.

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