“And He said to them, ‘You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God, in order to keep your tradition’” (Mark 7:9).

Rather than dwell on the specific instance mentioned by Jesus of evading the commandment, I would like to draw attention to His admiration of their abilities when He says, “You have a fine way.” J.B. Phillips translates this, “It is wonderful to see how.”

Jesus may have been speaking in sarcasm, but regardless of how He spoke, He was pointing to the sophisticated effort the religious people made in order to disobey. Jesus quoted Isaiah: “This people honors me with their lips but their heart is far from me. In vain do they worship me,” teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.

Non-religious people do not need sophisticated reasons in order to disobey. They deliberately disobey, or remain ignorant of the commandments, or do not care. Religious people not only come up with involved reasons to make their own wrong look right, but they are not satisfied unless they also teach it. I have used the word religious instead of Christian, but this also is true of Christians.

Here is a suggestion. Pay attention to the commandments as you read the New Testament (there are many—Colossians 3, 1 Thessalonians 5 for examples) and then write down your explanation of them. Is it an involved explanation of why you do not have to obey?


Written December 1985.

This post coordinates with tomorrow’s reading in the To the Word! Bible Reading Challenge. If you are not in a daily reading plan, please join us at TotheWord.com. We would love to have you reading with us.