Matthew 15:18-23

Matthew 15:18-23

7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:
8 “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’”* (* Isaiah 29:13)
Matthew 15:18-23

Jesus is calling some Pharisees and teachers of the law from Jerusalem hypocrites and states why by quoting Isaiah. Why did this occur? Well the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” They were attempting to take Him to task because of a tradition of the elders. His reply was devastating as He quoted from the ten commandments in Exodus 20:12 and Leviticus 20:9.

3 “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’* and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’**] 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. (* Exodus 20:12 ** Leviticus 20:9)
Matthew 15:3-6

The Pharisees and teachers of the law thought they could improve on God’s word, but Jesus was there to point out the error in such thinking – especially when such so called improvements or traditions contradict God’s word. I really like the way Matthew Henry explained this.

When a parent’s wants called for assistance, they pleaded, that they had devoted to the temple all they could spare, even though they did not part with it, and therefore their parents must expect nothing from them. This was making the command of God of no effect.

Jesus clearly taught following and teaching such traditions were defiled a person

10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”
Matthew 15:10-11

His disciples questioned Him on this as they believed (feared?) the Pharisees would be offended by His words. He replied with this parable which the disciples asked Him to explain

13 “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
Matthew 15:13-14

His reply to their question about the parable speaks to what does in fact defile a man and how breaking the tradition of not washing one’s hands does not. Instead He speaks to the condition of the heart.

17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
Matthew 15:17-20

We must be careful to distinguish between tradition or doctrine and God’s word as we seek to put God’s word into practice. Many traditions and doctrines are useful, but we should never put them above God’s word. I belong to a particular church with its own traditions and doctrines, but have many brother and sisters in other churches with other traditions and doctrines.