Empty hearts


Mark 7:1-13

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.)

God doesn’t want my worship if my heart is not in it.

So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”

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

“‘These people honour me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’

You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honour your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

It is a scenario we are familiar with. A stereotype we fall back on. Pharisees are bad and hypocritical and the disciples and Jesus’ followers are good. In church, we are always talking about the Pharisees and how they don’t know the love of God. I find in my own life, this technique of stereotyping the characters from the Bible make me lose touch of what it is actually speaking to me.

I think many times I am more like a Pharisee. I have grown up in the church and “know a lot about God” (or think I do sometimes). I feel comfortable in church and around church people. I can slip easily into church jargon and while I make a point not to be judgemental at church or with any seekers I meet or am ministering to, I can be quite judgemental about the drunk guy I see on the street. So I’m going to put the breaks on when I see stories like this and ask what it says to me that is not necessarily obvious.

I know I don’t follow the traditions of the elders of the Jews but I certainly do get caught up in the things of this world. And I think that is Jesus’ first point. For the Pharisees the rules give comfort. They are familiar and define their existence. They are comfortable there. Unfortunately, I don’t believe there is an opportunity to be comfortable when you are with God. Until we are made sinless, our very nature would squirm in His presence. They are caught up on man made traditions rather than in tune with God’s will. Do I allow myself to get caught up with my job, my favourite sport, my study, my church, and miss what God is doing in the world? Do I miss His presence while I look for His plan?

Also God doesn’t want you appearing good. He wants your heart. Jesus quotes Isaiah, calling them hypocrites and saying their worship is in vain. If your heart is not in tune with God, then your worship is useless. Don’t go through the motions. I need to get my heart right with God, hear what He’s saying. Newsflash: God doesn’t want my worship if my heart is not in it. He wants me. That’s where He wants to start. But often it is easier for me to give Him my Sabbath. It is easier for me to give Him prison ministry. It is easier for me to work for the RECORD. But my heart? It’s pretty good isn’t it? I comply with the churches policy of well-behaved employees. I’m vegetarian. I pay my tithe. None of that matters if He can’t have my heart. I must seek Him with all my heart and let Him mould it into shape. Then my actions will follow. Give Him your heart today.