“And make sure you wash your hands!” Always the call following this: “It’s dinnerrrrr!” Followed by this: “Did you wash your hands?” Followed by this: “Looks like you held them under the tap for a second.”
Personal hygiene never seemed necessary to living. It was a long list: Clean hands. Clean face. Clean clothes. Polished shoes. Brushed hair. All of it checked by mum and dad. As a child I never understood – simply that it was.
Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?’ He said to them, ‘Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, “This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.” You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.’ Then he said to them, ‘You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, “Honour your father and your mother”; and, “Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.” But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, “Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban” (that is, an offering to God) then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.’ Mark 7:1-13
Reading these verses today just one word kept repeating in my head: Religion. Religion. Religion.
Head Office all the way from Jerusalem. Defiled Hands. DEFILED!! Traditions of the Elders. TRADITIONS!! Many other traditions. MANY OTHER!! Commandment v Tradition. Word of God void. And you do many things like this.
Not that this tradition still happens of course …
Can you say the creed? Do you believe in the Holy Trinity? Have you been baptised? Which church do you attend? How often do you pray? How often do you read your bible? Do you attend bible study? How much do you tithe? What tv programmes do you watch? What music do you listen to? What books do you read? Who do you associate with? How much do you volunteer? What committees do you serve on? Just how good a Christian are you really? We need to know if you are one of us.
We rarely washed our hands before dinner. The fastest way to prove we had would have been to smell our hands. Soap always leaves a scent. But the rules were not that strict. Not unless mum or dad was in a bad mood – or we had particularly grimy hands. And we never got ill, never had food-poisoning, did grow healthy and strong.
The principle was sound. The application was not. The tradition was of lip-service.
Lip-service. “And you do many things like this.”
All are welcome. If you say the creed. If you believe in the Holy Trinity. If you get baptised. If you attend church. If you pray and read the bible and study it. If you contribute and serve. And we never say this but lip-service goes a long way here. It keeps things going. Keeps the wheels turning. Represents God in the right way.
When it comes to church life I remain confused. What happened to the “make disciples” bit? Or to put it another way (the less popular way) the “each become – and be always and forever – disciples” bit?
Why is that the bit I see so rarely, have never been invited to become, and when I mention comes back with something like …
“We know we ought to – but it takes so much time – and we don’t know where it will lead (or end). And besides – there is so much else demanding of our time. Let’s pray about it in the meantime.”
Just how can THAT be so “lip-serviced” by so many?