By Joshua Franks
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Bruceton
Over the years many different people have come to my office door and said, “Do you have a second? I need to talk about something.” I’ve noticed a pattern in many of the conversations that follow. After loitering in the door for a moment, they’ll settle down into a comfortable seat on my couch and say, “What does the Bible say about this?” The “this” is always different but the underlying question is usually the same. They’ve found themselves in a gray area and they’re unsure of how to proceed.
I can relate to that. We all can. We know what it is to be unsure of how to proceed in many different situations. However, it’s the unsaid question that hangs heavy in the air.
Generally, they’re not really looking for guidance. They’re looking for a loophole. The attitude that shows up in my office is one where the Bible is the rule book and if we can find loopholes in the rules, then we can still satisfy our carnal desires and remain in good standing with the Lord.
There are, of course, a myriad of problems with that attitude but we’ll focus on the main one. The Bible is not meant to be viewed as a rule book for life. It is the source of life (Romans 10:17).
We don’t please the Father by following a set of rules. We never have. The Father desires that we would love Him. This is the plain message of both the Old and New Testaments.
Deuteronomy 6 and Mark 12 tell us that the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength.” Love is not something that happens because we obey rules. Love originates from an inward desire to please the Father.
This is the same issue that Jesus was addressing in our focal passage. The Pharisees had elevated rule following into an art form. In their zeal to keep God’s law they had built a fence around it. The idea was that if people stopped at the fence then they would never get close to actually breaking the law. They called this fence the traditions.
In our text, that is what Jesus and the disciples were accused of violating (Mark 7:5). And, of course, that was a true accusation. Jesus didn’t deny breaking their traditions. He broke it. He had no respect for their whole traditional system because it obscured the truth that God is not interested in external actions. He is concerned with the heart.
So the confrontation in this passage is about the heart versus the actions. The Pharisees were concerned with what you do. Jesus is concerned with what you want.
He makes this plain in Mark 7:15. “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” Sin originates in the heart and manifests itself outwardly through our actions.
The opposite of that is true as well. True worship begins with your desire to please the Father and works itself out in the life you live. So, the next time you’re tempted to view the Bible as a rule book, don’t. If you want to do something that you’re unsure about ask the question, “Does this bring Him glory?” If that’s your greatest desire then you’ll have your answer.