“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,[a] 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.) (Mark 7:1-4)
Cleanliness is next to Godliness. And is also next to healthiness! You have to understand, beloved reader, that without refrigeration or preservatives or any other way of keeping things clean and fresh in the market place, it was important in the home and when away from home to keep things as clean and sanitary as possible. But some Jews took it a step or two (or many steps to far) attaching piety and religious sincerity to what started out as good hygiene practices.
“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 honors 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.” (Verses 5-8)
This is no longer about hygiene practices but attention to minor details but overlooking large truths. Many of the Pharisees and scribes discriminated, marginalized, and dismissed others as unimportant or insignificant, or even as being less valuable and worthwhile then themselves or others in high positions. The Pharisees and scribes that Jesus is critiquing committed acts that violated the Ten Commandments right and left, but felt themselves “clean” because they went through elaborate rituals and ceremonies to “cleanse” themselves. Jesus explains this folly to the crowd.
“Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.” (Verses 14-15)
It is not the food we eat or the cleanliness of our hands that brings sin into our lives, but out thoughts and actions. Jesus said, . . .
“For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Verses 21-23)
Looking back at verse 5, beloved reader, where do you place importance? Human precepts and judgments? Or the commandments of God fulfilling the spirit of the commandments, and what Jesus called the greatest commandment – love and compassion. May your hearts and spirits be “clean”! Selah!