Mark 7: God’s Commands & Human Traditions

“You abandon God’s commands, and keep human tradition!” (7:8)

Jesus was talking to the Pharisees and “legal experts,” and he mentions a specific habit they had of depriving their own parents of charity on the pretense of giving this money to God instead, which let’s assume they actually gave.  In the end they “invalidated” God’s command to honor parents by their religious show of piety (7:13)

Do we do this today?

By “we”  I mean us, those reading this blog, not some uncle’s brother’s friend who attends some backward church.

By “this” I mean put so much stock in our religious customs that we actually end up ignoring or even transgressing the very desires of God that these customs are meant to help us serve.  Of course, we have traditions, but Jesus is not attacking traditions here.  It’s deeper than that.

What do you think?

Categories: Mark | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Post navigation

15 thoughts on “Mark 7: God’s Commands & Human Traditions

  1. Eddy Efaw

    Yes, I do this today . . . and for me it comes from my desire to be “right” with God the easiest and most convenient way possible. I want the way to being right that puts me in control of the rightness from week to week. This way is the way of religious customs. I go to church. I read my Bible some and books ABOUT the Bible more, I go to church camp, I give money to God every week, I teach a Sunday school class . . . These are “customs” that are tangible. These are things I can see. The “desires of God” (as you mention above) are things I can’t see, really. I have to sense, to feel, to get to know, to be in an active, cultivated relationship with God to know his desires. Cultivation of an authentic relationship takes time. I don’t have any . . . because I’m too busy going to church, reading books about the Bible, going to church camp . . . It’s a maddening cycle really. God knows this cycle is not Life-giving in any way, shape, or form. “I have come that you might have life and have it to the full.” That Life comes through authentic, cultivated, consistent, quiet, one-on-one, relationship with Him . . . not via religious customs.

    • Ah, yes, I know that one too. Trading religious customs for the relationship they are meant to foster and leaving it at that with some feeling of satisfaction.

      Which leads to this question: does this blog and our reading here just become one more religious to-do list item or is it life-giving and relationship-strengthening, with God and others? I would say the minute it becomes consistently only the former, we ought to stop this.

  2. Eddy Efaw

    I hit me for the first time as I was reading this passage: “What makes you unclean is what comes from the inside” ( 7:15 KNT) that because this is true, the Holy Spirit is perfectly located to take care of this dilemma. God sent his Holy Spirit to live inside of us. The Holy Spirit lives on the bullseye of the problem at hand. That is Good News.

  3. So, Jesus critic many thing about Jews tradition, excessive small doctrine, while ignoring major doctrine that are clashing. But why he do not critic about himself as God? Or just declare “I am God”. What I understand. God are suppose to be major thing in religion. What I know Christian that they define indirect speech in Bible to define Jesus is a part of God.

    V10-v13, Jesus critic Jews heavily. If today prophet Jesus back to earth, will he critic Christian in same way? But many will say, “I have been save” while doing blasphemy.
    V19- I think this verse where Christian allows all foods to be clean. Most of the unclean food forbid in OT is dirty, carnivorous animal, unhealthy and etc. Many doctor said that most of sickness are origin from foods. So is who wrong, doctor, or Jesus? Or Christian wrongly interpret the word of Jesus?

    I look many Biblical stories want to emphasize that Jesus is powerful, have healing gift, etc. and at same time have emphasize that he also have certain limitation to use his gift.

    • Remember that Jesus had work to do before he was killed. Had Jesus shown up an declared himself to be God point blank, I am not so sure he would have been as effective. One, that asserts himself too forcefully on people. Jesus seemed to like attracting people to him slowly so as to make sure they were committed and that they really understood. Two, the Jewish religious leaders would have conspired to kill him even sooner. Three, the Jewish people were expecting a Messiah who was a military leader who would overthrow Rome, so the people would have likely asserted Jesus into a role he was not trying to play. Fourth, Rome was pretty efficient about getting rid of rebel leaders and would have thought of Jesus as one if the people were championing him as the Messiah and they would have likely killed him sooner. I see it as a nice dinner: you don’t want it over too soon. So Jesus slowly reveals his divinity.

      Your point in v.10-13 is precisely what I hope you see us Christians struggling with. We know we are imperfect, so we desire to do all we can by the power of God to get rid of the sin in our lives. We don’t want to be the reason anyone gives for not becoming a Christian.

      I think it is best to see v.19 as about attitudes and desires, not food. That was the problem Jesus was attacking. The Pharisees had made it all about food and they had missed the point. Food doesn’t make a person unclean or impure with God; unholy attitudes and desires do. That doesn’t negate the fact that some foods were likely less healthful physically. Jesus says just eating some food doesn’t make you impure before God. Yes, it might make you sick. But not unclean. I am not sure this is an either-or.

      It seems to me that most of the limitations come from the lack of faith in the life of unbelievers, not from within Jesus. Miracles are intended to make a person see something about Jesus and to start faith in him. If the person is not open to that, it doesn’t make much sense to do miracles.

      I am very much enjoying sharing bits and pieces of my Bible with you. I admire your discipline and desire to learn even if it is only for information, as was my desire last year in the Qur’an.

      • Actually last time, I read using fast reading method, so many thing that I missed. So, now I just take my time to read it again.
        “Had Jesus shown up an declared himself to be God point blank” I will check it when we found that verse later.

        Thanks for info.

  4. Trent Williamson

    Jesus (and His followers) seemed to challenge and offend the religious “sensibilities” of the day. Unafraid to challenge the traditions that do nothing but bind us to a systematic “rightness” – He is more concerned with what is going on inside our hearts than our outward expressions of holiness. I play the religious game very well (I know the lingo & the checklist by heart) – but many times my heart remains impure and unholy. I love Eddy’s reminder that this is where the Spirit lives!!

    Sadly – I think I would have been a pretty good pharisee!

  5. Melanie Semore

    There is a short story I used to teach whose main character was a woman caught up in appearances. She had a piano but didn’t know how to play. She had shelves of books but never read. She talked about the opera but never went. I’m afraid we too often are governed by the trappings of religion but miss the heart of the matter. It’s not just that we have the language and the posture, we are seen in the right places, give pious advice, and
    so forth. We are also motivated to do things like teach a class or take on a ministry, not because we feel called to do so but because we think people expect us to or because we feel guilty if we don’t. In my case, I even end up grousing about taking on a job. I’m pretty sure God would rather I just say No than to say yes for the wrong reason (especially if I’m going to complain!).

  6. Remember Saul, Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathea? They were all once Pharisees. If it is true that some of us are inclined towards being a bit like the Pharisees right now, it is still my hope that we will become like them in the end. Even Jesus didn’t give up on Pharisees.

  7. Eddy Efaw

    Melanie – Excellent insights . . . again! Loved the piano story. I talk all the time ABOUT God but lately I’ve been consciously trying to talk more TO God. So far the difference is mind-blowing.

    Trent – So glan you chimed in with your thoughts. I’m RIGHT there.

    Jason – So far so good (in my opinion) on this blog being and encouragement to read and have life-giving conversations re: the Word of God and NOT another thing to check off the list.

  8. Pingback: 120112–George Hach’s Journal–Thursday | George Hach's Blog

  9. In many ways, the New Testament mission to the Gentiles starts here. Actually it probably started back in chapter 5 with the Gerasene madman, as Peterson calls him. Interesting first convert. Now Jesus is back to the Gentile regions of Galilee and beyond.

    The overwhelming question I have today is who are my Gentiles, those I might say are unclean, as the Pharisees were too quick to say. I find in myself that my answer has nothing to do with race or even religion. It has everything to do with ideologies, politics, economics, and lifestyle. I’ll have to be thinking about how I can, like Jesus did with the Syro-Phonecian woman, be open to faith in places I am not expecting to find it.

  10. “Jesus replied, ‘You [Pharisees] are frauds and hypocrites! How accurately did Isaiah prophesy about your phonies.'” (7:6)

Leave a Reply to Jason Knight Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: