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Daily Scripture Reading Matthew 15:1-20

Verse of the Day – Matthew 15:3
He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?

Devotional Thoughts

This week we will be working our way through Matthew 15:1-20 in a series of devotionals titled Discernment or Defilement. In this text, Jesus confronts the Pharisees and scribes and then encourages and teaches His own disciples a valuable lesson about discernment. Remember that discernment is the ability to know the difference between good and evil, right and wrong, and sound and unsound doctrine. It involves the help of the Holy Spirit, wisdom (a right perspective), and maturity so that we might then act upon our knowledge. We know something is right so we embrace it and we know something else is evil so we shun it.

We start then in our text looking at Matthew 15:1-6:

Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.

Scribes (Greek grammatais) were those teachers who were responsible for transcribing scrolls and teaching the finer points of the Law. They were skilled educators and public servants. Pharisees were of course religious leaders and members of a sect that held to rigid outward appearances in obedience to the Law but as Christ pointed out, suffered from inward depravity and vanity. And members of these two groups of men came from Jerusalem to find Jesus, looking to discredit Him and His disciples. They thought they had found a way for they came bringing an accusation against His disciples. This would reflect badly on Him since He was after all their Rabbi, their teacher.

The accusation was one made about a technical point founded in oral tradition (held to be equal to Scripture by the Pharisees). They claimed that the disciples of Christ did not wash their hands properly before they ate. *gasp*

And as important as cleanliness is, this was not about washing germs off of ones hands. No. It was about a tradition that was thought to bear equal weight with Divine Mandate from Scripture. The tradition of the elders was that before a meal was eaten a person had to wash their hands in a specific manner. The tradition stated that to eat with unwashed hands was an equivalent to commiting adultery, for in failing to wash the hands and then eating a meal a person was defiling themselves! Who knows what they may have touched that would make them unclean outwardly, and if the hands were not washed and the food was touched then that uncleaness would be taken into the body and the defilement would be both within and without!

The disciples of Jesus understood that this was only a tradition and had no Biblical weight at all. It was a tradition of men, not a command of God. But when the accusers asked Jesus about it in this manner He did not defend His disciples. Instead He answered their question with a question. Jesus asked them bluntly, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” There was a point to their traditions that He knew was a point of sin. Not just a ceremonious defilement. But a serious violation of the Law of God.

He explained that this sin was a tradition that lead to the transgression of the Law. Not a transgression of tradition mind you, but of God’s Word! And the accusation? Jesus stated that God had commanded that each of us is to honor our father and mother to the point that the Mosaic Law required the death penalty for anyone who cursed their parents.

But the tradition of the day was a violation of this commandment, for the teachers of the Law had added to the Law. The Bible teaches very clearly that children are to take care of their parents later in their lives. This is a Biblical principle that should not be ignored. This is God’s design and part of the foundation of the command to honor our father and mother. But the teachers developed a loophole. If a person had an amount of money or something that would benefit their parents who they were responsible for caring for, then if they dedicated that money or that possession to God and the work of the Temple “ministry” then they could claim that they could not give it to their parents!

Here is an example. Let us say a young man has come to have some means, he has been blessed in his business. And his parents need help buying food. He knows that this is his responsibility but the teachers of the day have presented a tradition that states that if he would set aside some of that money and designate it for God then he would not have to give it to his parents. What they needed he had given to God instead, which as it was being taught, was a higher use of the gift than to use in to honor and care for ones parents!

And Jesus calls it what it is – a tradition of men that violates the command of God. In fact, Jesus refers to it as if this tradition rendered the Law of God of no effect. Now we know that the Law cannot be undone, but it can be disobeyed, which is really built on the idea that we are not bound by the law and have a way around it, so to us, the law is irrelevent.

Before we move on in our text this week we need to discern! What traditions have we allowed to build up in our lives that in essence cause us to act as if the Word of God was irrelevent? What things do we insist upon to the disregard of the clear teaching of Scripture? As my mentor has put it often, “What is our drug of choice? Whether it be drugs, food, entertainment, sports, shopping, or any other substance – what draws our attention and tempts our lust?” What is our addiction? What drives us to fulfill our lust and disregard the Word of God?

Truthfully, we cannot undo the Word of God by our actions, but we can act as if the Bible was meaningless. And the world notices it when we do. We cannot pick and choose which Scripture commands we will and will not obey! As Spurgeon stated it, we must take it all or have none of it.

What traditions do you hold that quite possibly might be causing you to transgress the Word of God? Lay those traditions aside and stand on the firm foundation of the Word of God without hesitation. No tradition of men is worth violating the Word of God and the great and terrible penalties that will bring.

Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)

A Sermon to Open Neglectors and Nominal Followers of Religion by Charles Spurgeon
Commentary on Matthew 15 by John Gill

Bible Reading For Further Study

Colossians 2:8; 1 Peter 1:17-19
Romans 4

Recommended Songs for Worship

The Law of God is Good and Wise
The Law Commands and Makes Us Know


March 2009

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright
© 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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