Verse of the Day Devotion: Matthew 15:8
“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me.” – Matthew 15:8
This is a prophecy of Isaiah that Jesus spoke against the Pharisees. These Pharisees came from Jerusalem and asked Him “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” Matthew 15:2 This is part of what is called the ‘Oral Traditions’, not part of the written law of Moses. It was passed down from generation to generation as a proper thing to do. Mark brings additional clarity to this tradition. “For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots.” Mark 7:4. The Pharisees expected every Jew to follow these traditions, and this included Jesus and His disciples.
However, Jesus answers back with a question as to why they transgressed not the oral tradition, but the commandment of God. “And He (Jesus) answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said,’ Honor your father and mother’ and ‘He who speaks evil of father and mother is to be put to death. ‘ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,” he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.” Matthew 15:3-6. What the Pharisees had done is usurp the command of God by the tradition of the elders. They were hypocrites because they accused them of breaking tradition, when they were breaking the law of God. He then tells the disciples, as stated in the focus verse, that the Pharisees honored God with their words, but not with their heart. And then He adds, “But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men”. Matthew 15:9.
It is important that we examine ourselves and make sure we do not fall into this unknowingly. It is very easy to fall into the habit of praising God when our thoughts are elsewhere. It is easy to give to the church simply because it is the expected thing to do, rather than giving it to God with a heart of love and thankfulness.
And what of communion? There are several verses we need to look at. “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 1 Corinthians 11:24b When we take the bread and eat it and the cup and drink it, do we think of Him and remember His sacrifice; the breaking of His body and the shedding of His blood? There is a warning involved here. We are not to take the communion for sake of the tradition, but for what it represents, the death of Christ on our behalf. This is the most important act anyone has done for us. We must remember His sacrifice and be always thankful, for only He could pay the penalty. “But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” 1 Cor 11:28
In closing, we must examine why we do things in the church or any religious gathering. Do we do them simply because it is expected, they are tradition, or do we do them because of who God is and our desire to please Him? We are to remember, and be thankful for, all He has done for us and the great love He has for us. Tradition can be good, but not the reason or the mentality by which we conduct ourselves.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.