So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “‘this people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’ ”
Traditions verses truth. The Pharisee’s and Scribes had mastered semantics to a whole new level. They could find the most forensic loop-hole to not care for people. Notice even when it comes to caring for family, specifically honoring one’s father and mother that the Pharisee’s had devised a nuance to keep from helping them and instead, helping themselves.
Christianity is not a tool to leverage our own success. God forbid that we use our “spiritual commitments” to keep from helping others. Christ’s incarnational ministry was focused not on keeping social, political, educational, and religious systems in tack. Christ did not come to save angels (Heb. 2:16). He came to redeem broken and sinful people and restore them back into relationship with their Creator. The whole focus of His incarnation was human beings; the gospel is about redeeming human beings; the mission is about reaching human beings. But there is always a danger that the systems become more important that people. Our mission is about getting the gospel to all human beings because redemption is about saving human beings.
We need to love people and use things, not love things and use people. The Pharisees and Scribes had learned to use the system. We are living in a world that people are learning how to leverage the systems in our culture for their own advantage. Special interest groups are leveraging education, political systems and even religious systems for their own goals.
The danger of making our agenda more important than God’s mission is that we start protecting our systems and traditions over loving people. People find they can exploit others well through systems which happens to be one of the more pressing and sensitive issues in our culture right now. But systems are built by people and I remember Jesus’ statement in Matthew 23:1-3:
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.
Jesus appears to affirm that the Pharisees and Scribes are in a position of authority. He even says to do what they tell you to do… ok? But he says do not do according to their deeds for they say things and do not do them. Jesus did not say get rid of the seat of Moses. He even affirmed that (some) things they say, the people are to do – I am working from the assumption that this has to do with teaching the Law. But don’t follow what they do… they are hypocrites (Matthew. 23:13).
We are to never allow “systems” to become more important than people. Jesus did not say follow blindly what the Pharisees and Scribes say and do. He did not say dispose of the “chair of Moses” either. Jesus confronted them by their extraordinary hypocrisy and by His teaching encouraged people to follow righteousness with their whole heart.
Sincerely in Christ,