Jesus argues with the Jewish religious leaders again in today’s chapter. Today, the issue is eating with unwashed hands, an elaborate tradition they had developed in an effort to remain a ceremonially clean people. Notice that is ceremonially clean. They hadn’t developed this ritual to remain a physically healthier group. Jesus’ disciples evidently weren’t as meticulous about this tradition as the Jewish religious leaders would have liked. Jesus points out the error in their logic:
What makes someone unclean isn’t what goes into the mouth. It’s what comes out of the mouth that makes someone unclean. (15:11)
What comes out of the mouth begins in the heart, and that’s what makes someone unclean. Out of the heart, you see, come evil plots, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, and blasphemy. These are the things that make someone unclean. But eating with unwashed hands doesn’t make a person unclean. (15:18-20)
In fact, a tradition could make a person unclean if it caused them to nullify or trespass against God’s law. The Pharisees were doing exactly that with their unwillingness to honor their parents by devoting money to God needed to help their parents (15:3-6). God’s desire is for honor, not donations.
So, I am wondering today what, if any, are the “traditions” we have in our churches today that miss the point and maybe even cause us to work against what God is really looking for? What are the “unwashed hands” that we get up in arms about even though these are not the things that really cause moral problems?