Jesus Attacks a System of Rules And Regulations

Hypocrisy can be illustrated by the way we clean house when company is coming. We shove our junk in the closet, stuff it under the bed, etc. where it can’t be seen. Out of sight it doesn’t exist at least to our guests. That is not a horrible way to clean house, but it is te … More


In this passage Jesus was attacking a system that put rules and regulations before the claim of human need (vv. 8-13). The commandment of God was that the claim of human love should come first; the commandment of the scribes was that the claim of legal rules and regulations should come first. Jesus made it plain that any regulation which prevented a man from giving help where help was needed was nothing less than a contradiction of the law of God. We must be careful that we never allow rules to paralyze the claims of love. Nothing that prevents us helping a fellow man can ever be a rule approved by God.

In the Old Testament the Pharisees were not only strict in the ceremonial cleanliness of their bodies but gave careful attention to the ceremonial washing of cups, pots and brazen vessels. The Jewish Mishrahas, thirty chapters on just the cleansing of the vessels. These legalists had substituted ceremonial traditions and a formal observance of a list of prescribed rules and regulations for the clear commands of God’s Word.

Jesus explained that a man is not defiled by the food he eats but by the wicked thoughts that come from his heart (vv. 14-23). He explained that food does not defile a man because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, where the digestive process takes care of it (keep in mind that the Jew had and still has a whole system of things that are clean and unclean). It is a truly terrible list which Jesus cites of the things that come from the human heart. There is no greater mistake than to identify righteousness with certain so-called religious acts whether it be rules in eating or baptism, etc. When any religious group places more value on the outward than the inward it is hypocrisy and has ceased to be true Christianity.


It is easy to become discouraged because of petty religious issues. What do I do to keep my life free from hypocrisy? I want to be motivated to serve the Lord because of genuine love and not rules.

Mark 7:14-23 (English Standard Version)

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