First Things First

“And he continued, ‘You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 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)—then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.’ Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.’”—Mark 7:9-15 (NIV)

When Jesus gave His illustration in today’s passage, I immediately thought of the various times me or my brother have tried to get out of something by slyly using one of our parents’ other rules or desires. For example, my brother hates doing yard work with my father, so he will almost always say he is doing homework or an assigned workout for his team sport because he knows my parents expect him to do well in those areas. As a result, he sometimes gets out of the yard work (although he can’t seem to always pull these schemes past my parents). I know that may be a silly example, but the example Jesus gives in regards to the perverted traditions of Jews and Jewish leaders is pretty relatable.

Jesus exposes the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and scribes when He says that they misconstrue the commands of God in order to prioritize and worship their own traditions. One example is in their proclamation of certain money or objects as “Corban,” which is a Hebrew term that dedicates an object to God and His sacred service for the purpose of avoiding assisting their father or mother. This takes an important and valuable practice instituted by God and deceitfully places it against other clear commands of God.

If we read the beginning of this chapter, we see this entire conversation started with the Pharisees questioning why Jesus and His disciples did not wash their hands ceremonially before eating. After exposing their manipulation of truth, Jesus asserts that what enters one’s body (food) does not defile them spiritually; rather it is what comes out that defiles them—specifically the distorted messages and disobedient actions of the Jewish religious authorities.

Although we’d like to believe we don’t struggle with this, we must remember that the enemy will try to shift our focus to worldly matters and confuse our understanding of God’s word and commands in order to make us fall into the same trap. We must continually root ourselves in God’s truth to assure that what comes out of us doesn’t defile us because whatever is inside our hearts will come out! May the Lord grant us wisdom and sensitivity to His Spirit to distinguish between what will defile and what will sanctify so we can put the first things first!

Pause: What worldly or temporary things have you put so much emphasis on that it holds the same importance as your spiritual walk and faith in the Lord?

Practice: After evaluating what that might be, take a step today to pray and explore the Bible regarding what importance that concept or object actually holds in the eyes of the Lord.

Pray: Heavenly Father, I sometimes struggle with lifting something less significant to a spiritual level of importance that is not approved of by You. Whether it be a relationship, a career, or even a tradition or nonessential belief, I ask that You would reveal it to me and guide me in how to put it back in its rightful place in my heart and mind. You deserve to be at the top, Father, nothing else and no one else. Thank You for your grace and help. Amen.