Light for the Last Days


He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honour your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— then he need not honour his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honour Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”

Matthew 15.3-9

Now. what happens in this instance is that they were fussing over a minor issue based on their traditions, and finding a way round one of the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments are binding upon us, and the Commandment Jesus is speaking of here is “To honour your father and your mother”. This is a clear command of God which says that everyone should honour their father and mother.

When you are a child, you should do what your mother and father tell you to do. Obviously, it is right, but you are under their authority. When you grow up, you are no longer under their authority, but you should still honour your father and mother right through your life.

And it does say only your father and your mother, full stop. It does not say ‘only honour your father and mother if they’re good people, if they are good Christians or good Jews‘, or whatever. It just says ‘honour your father and mother’.

So, there is a obligation upon us to respect, to honour our father and mother, and to look after them if they need help from us as they grow old.

In this case, what was happening was that some of the Pharisees in Jesus’ time were saying to their parents, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God” and making the קָרְבָּן corban [qorbān] vow that, according to their tradition, would get them round the command to honour father and mother if they declared that all their possessions or savings were a gift to God.

And, if they especially dedicated this offering or oblation to God, they could then say to their parents that their resources were unavailable to help them, and that they were to take care of themselves until their death because the person who owned the gifts had given them to God.

This was a declaration of convenience which, apparently, left the property which was at the disposal of the one who made the vow inaccessible for the parents until that they died and deprived them from drawing any benefit from it. Basically, they were saying, ‘we’re not going to help our parents in their old age if they needed help.’ And they were doing that justifying themselves with the corban vow and trying to skirt the the Commandments of of God.

Jesus says,

Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.

Matthew 15.6

Through this kind of trick, they could completely disobey the command to honour their father and mother and do it while being very religious. This tells you something about this battle between religion and reality which I’m talking about.

A lot of people can be ultra careful to keep certain Commandments’ outward forms of godliness and traditions, but deny common humanity and the basic commands of God, and Jesus was saying He was not at all impressed by this fact.

Jesus was impressed by the truth, by the inward reality. And when Jesus spoke about the Law, He went right to the heart of the matter. When He was asked: ‘What is the greatest commandment?’ in Matthew 22 verse 34, He says,

34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22.34-40

Jesus summed up the Law and the Prophets with those two commandments:

  • love the Lord your God with all your heart
  • love your neighbour as yourself

Do that, Jesus says, and you are not going to go wrong. Basically, all the Commandments can be funnelled down into that simple statement.

Tony Pearce

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