Man-Made Rules as Godly Doctrine

(Today's post by James Rooks)

Matthew 15:1-20

Here we go again. Those are literally the four words that came to mind when I sat down to read this passage in Matthew 15. Time and again, the Pharisees try to trick Jesus by asking Him hard questions. And every single time, Jesus gives a response that leaves them wanting.

The pharisees begin this round of questioning by turning on the disciples perceived lack of jewish manners for not washing their hands before eating bread. What Jesus does next, in my opinion, is just short of declaring war on them. He calls them out for not only being incorrect in their doctrine but also as hypocrites. Then lowers the boom by quoting Isaiah:

'This people honors Me with their lips , But their heart is far away from Me . 'But in vain do they worship Me , Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men .'”

There are plenty of nuggets in today's passage, but Jesus' reference to Isaiah stuck with me. So we'll spend a little bit of time there. There are two warnings that we should heed here. 1. Be careful not to adopt and teach a man made lesson as a doctrine of God. 2. As disciples (followers of Jesus) we are to be so trained in the Word that we are able identify when this is happening.

I'm not writing this as a call out on any church organizations or their teachings. The burden here rests on those that call themselves disciples. When Peter questions the meaning of what Jesus is saying in verse 15, see Jesus' response “Are you still lacking understanding also?” Seems surprising that after all that Peter and the other disciples had seen and heard from Jesus, they were still having to check for understanding. Is this a bad thing? Sometimes the disciples catch flack from us and other commentators for not having a clue, but there is something about Peter that I am learning to admire. When he had a question about something, he was the first to ask. And who did he ask? Jesus.

Would it have been better for Peter to fake it and pretend to have all the answers? Or better yet, go straight to Jesus with the questions? How much better off would we be if we did the same? I've seen myself and others get off track many times because I've assumed the answers in my head were right without stopping to ask the question “Jesus, what does this mean?”

James 1:5 says “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” My hope is that we have wisdom by asking of it from God. There are times when we too might be caught in the middle of a situation like Peter in this passage and it will be so important who we listen to. Will we listen to the voices of those who are teaching man made rules as godly doctrines or the actual Words of God?

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