Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” Mark 7:1-5
Distractions come in many shapes and sizes. I really enjoy meals with my wife, friends, and family at restaurants. The one thing that obstructs active conversation are all the televisions restaurants seem to have tuned into sports. Just like the dogs depicted in the movie “UP!”, who are instantaneously distracted by movement (“Squirrel!”), I’m distracted by the movement on the televisions. It’s one of the reasons I try to face those I’m with, avoiding these distraction boxes in restaurants. I really don’t like the distraction.
Our passage talks about distractions, but the Pharisees certainly didn’t believe their teachings were distractions. They ‘taught’ them as external demonstrations. It was felt hand washings and all the other rituals they practiced were key indicators of the condition of the heart. When they observed Jesus’ disciples eating with filthy hands, they determined to bring this to Jesus’ attention, perhaps providing the opportunity to entrap him.
Just as when Amos called out the Israelites in their insincere practices of worshiping God (Amos 5:21-24), Jesus knows who these Pharisees are living for, and it isn’t God. These rules and regulations, perhaps initiated to focus people’s attention on God, turn into weighty burdens no one can bear, all the while ensuring the Pharisees’ presence at the forefront, looking the part of holy, but lacking its power (Matthew 23, 2 Timothy 3:5).
In considering this, I wonder how I would answer the question “What are you living for?”. Am I being pharisaical, looking to impress others with how I present myself, or am I truly doing and seeking the Lord in what I do? Do you find yourself contemplating this? Is this something you think of? Whether you do or not, perhaps you can take a few moments, look over God’s creation, or shut your eyes, and picture someone asking you “what are you living for?” What’s your answer?
By Rich Obrecht