Concerning Traditions About Defilement
42. Concerning Traditions About Defilement
This is another long passage that we will look at in sections.
And there are gathered together unto Jesus the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which had come from Jerusalem, and had seen that some of his disciples ate their bread with defiled, that is, unwashen, hands.
For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands diligently, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders: and when they come from the marketplace, except they wash themselves, they eat not: and many other things there be, which they have received to hold, washing of cups, and pots, and brazen vessels.
And the Pharisees and the scribes ask Jesus, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with defiled hands?
And Jesus said unto them, Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
This people honoreth me with their lips,
But their heart is far from me.
But in vain do they worship me,
Teaching as their doctrines the ..precepts of men.
Ye leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men.
And he said unto them, Full well do ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your tradition. For Moses said, Honor thy father and thy mother; and, He that speaketh evil of father or mother, let him die the death: but ye say, If a man shall say to his father or his mother, That wherewith thou mightest have been profited by me is Corban, that is to say, Given to God; ye no longer suffer him to do aught for his father or mother; making void the word of God by your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things ye do.
And Jesus called to him the multitude, and said unto them, Hear me all of you, and understand: To eat with unwashen hands defileth not the man. There is nothing from without the man, that going into him can defile him: but the things which proceed out of the man are those that defile the man.
The message here echoes earlier passages on Jesus’ attitude toward fasting, keeping the Sabbath and associating with sinners. Once again Jesus rebukes the scribes and Pharisees for maintaining outward -- and meaningless -- appearances of piety while ignoring what’s truly important: their inner condition.
Jesus’ accusation is that the scribes and Pharisees sacrifice the laws of God in order to keep self-serving “laws of men.” His example: Sinners who make financial contributions to the synagogue are no longer held accountable for their actions. To say that money can act as a substitute for righteous living is clearly an abomination in Jesus’ view.
And when Jesus was entered into the house from the multitude, his disciples asked of him the parable. And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Perceive ye not, that whatsoever from without goeth into the man, it cannot defile him; because it goeth not into his heart.
And he said, That which proceedeth out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, evil thoughts proceed, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, covetings, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, ailing, pride, foolishness: all these evil things proceed from within, and defile the man.
Yet more evidence of the disciples being slow on the uptake.
Then the disciples said unto Jesus, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, when they heard that saying? But Jesus answered and said, Every plant which my Father planted not, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they are blind guides. And if the blind guide the blind, both shall fall into a pit.
This is a very interesting teaching. It suggests that evil – or ignorance – has an end. Think in terms of evolution. Every species that does not adapt to changes in the environment goes extinct. This could be a modern interpretation of “Every plant which my Father planted not, shall be rooted up.” If we are not aligned with the fundamental laws of life, we don’t make it. Simple as that.
There’s also an implication here that there is another way of dealing with evil. Rather than trying to root it up and eliminate it, let it run its course. Having made the wrong turn in the labyrinth of life, it will eventually reach a dead-end and go no further.