God’s Word for You
Mark 7:9-13 Corban
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, November 13, 2019
9 And he said to them: “You do a good job of setting aside the commands of God in order to keep your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ 11 But you keep saying that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might have received from me is Corban’ (that is, an offering), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. 13 In this way you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. You do many things like that.”
Jesus tears away at their hypocrisy with a piercing little word that exposes the true hearts of the scribes and Pharisees. The word is hina (ἵνα), “in order that.” It expresses the purpose for which a thing is done. They were setting aside God’s commandments for the purpose of keeping their own man-made commandments. He gives an example. There was a Jewish tradition that a special gift to the temple could be given. It was possible to dedicate all of one’s worldly income to the temple, at which point the gift could not be revoked. However, the giver could still use and enjoy this income until the time of his death. The tradition would allow him to use his money for himself but be unable to use it for any other purpose, such as helping his parents. This may have been a mangling of Leviticus 27:10, which says that once a certain animal was set aside for an offering, a man could not substitute another animal in its place (if he tried, both animals would be considered dedicated to the Lord). The bottom line of this action was that it allowed a man to use his income for himself, to boost his reputation in the church, and yet abandon his parents to poverty and perhaps worse.
There was no welfare system or life insurance or retirement income; it usually fell to a son to take care of his parents as they grew too old to work. This tradition opened a door to the Pharisees to neglect their parents and seem especially generous at the same time.
Some people struggle with this passage because Jesus seems to be pitting a commandment from the second table of the law (the fourth, honoring your father and mother) against a commandment from the first table (the first, loving God above all things). This is not at all what Jesus is saying. Notice the tenses of the verbs of “saying” in verses 10 and 11. “Moses said” is a past tense verb. What God said through the pen of Moses stands. “But you keep saying” is present tense. What the scribes and Pharisees claimed was not from God, but from their own opinions.
This text poses a serious question for many Christians today. More and more, our culture is moving away from accepting facts toward a mindset of accepting opinions and feelings as being more valuable than facts. In some cases, even to the highest levels of our society and government, we are fast adopting an attitude expressed by the words, “Get over it.” No matter what was once morally wrong, ethically criminal, or altogether illegal, more and more people in our country are saying, “Who cares? Get over it.” This is not a comment about the present impeachment proceedings, but a call to Christians to notice the danger of this attitude as it impacts God’s holy Word, God’s will, the Ten Commandments, and the truth of sin as it corrupts mankind. If we begin to say, “Get over it,” we will completely abandon the doctrines of sin and grace and the need for a Savior at all. Without Christ, we have no hope of salvation, and yet the need for salvation still remains.
Consider: A person who has never visited the ocean arrives at a beach at low tide. He decides that he will pitch a tent on the shore. Although he feels this is the right thing for him and the most beautiful memory he can make of his visit to the ocean, the fact remains that 6 hours and 12½ minutes later, the tide will have come in, and the inevitable and unstoppable high tide will have submerged his tent and (if he is caught sleeping) may well claim his life. This is the same truth that underscores sin, grace, and the inevitable approach of Judgment Day. We cannot set aside the word of God in favor of our own opinions. God’s will is his eternal and divine will, to be followed by mankind. Whether it is the doctrine of divine inspiration, the love of God above all things, the real presence in the Lord’s Supper, the washing of sins in baptism, the protecting hedge of Church fellowship, or whatever the doctrine might be, the doctrines taught in the Bible are supreme. Both tables of the Ten Commandments are important to God and should be important to us. The grace of God through the love of Jesus has rescued us from the inrushing danger of sin’s consequences. As the inevitable tide of Judgment Day rolls toward us, we have comfort in the love of Jesus, who has thrown us a line, handed us a life preserver, and hauled us into the lifeboat of the Church. Don’t jump out of the boat. Listen to the Captain and obey his words.
Pastor Timothy Smith