Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Christmas Hams and Farcical Worship

Suggested Reading: Mark 7:1-13

The story goes of a mom who was cooking a Christmas ham with her daughter. The daughter watched patiently as the mom prepared the ham and as she chopped off the front of the ham before putting it in the baking pan and placing it in the oven. The little girl asked her mom why she chopped off the front of the ham and mom admitted she wasn't sure but that grandma had always done that when she was a little girl. So mom called grandma to ask why you were supposed to chop off the front of the ham. Upon hearing the question grandma cracked up laughing and explained, "I chopped off the front of the ham because my baking pan was too small for the whole ham!" Mom had mistaken the way her mother did things for the way things had to be done.

In Mark chapter 7, we find another group of people who had gotten things a little mixed up. A group of scribes and Pharisees came down to see Jesus to examine him and determine whether or not they should support him. Their initial criticism of Jesus, however, had nothing to do with his teachings being wrong or with accusations that he was mistreating the poor or neglecting the widow or fatherless child. Their initial criticism was a question of why Jesus' disciples didn't follow the traditions of the elders and wash their hands before eating!

Now, I think we can all agree that washing your hands is a good thing to do but Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God' (Mark 7:6-7, NLT). While washing one's hands is certainly a good thing to do, there is no command in scripture to wash your hands before you eat. That was a human idea - a good one to be sure, but still human - and these people were judging Jesus' disciples on it as if it were a command of God.

As followers of Jesus, we must make an effort to distinguish between our own ideas and those that come from scripture. Ideas like "drinking is a sin," or "God helps those who help themselves" are ideas that may have logical human reasons behind them but they can't be found anywhere in scripture and may in fact be contrary to scripture. We must have enough respect for God's Word to actually know God's Word -- to understand the difference between what it does say and what it doesn't say. When we start confusing the two and teaching or practicing our own ideas as God's word, our worship becomes a farce.

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