“. . . but eat bread with hands that are unclean.” Mark 7:5
The scribes and the Pharisees saw that the disciples did not observe the law of washing of the hands before and during meals, and asked Jesus for a reason. Jesus began His response by quoting a verse from Isaiah 29:13, there Isaiah accused the people of his day of honoring God in action, while their hearts were far away.
Jesus uses a verse the elders were familiar with, and levels a scandalous charge, by calling them hypocrites. Hypocrite has as its root meaning, one whose whole life is a piece of acting, without any sincerity behind it at all. It’s the belief that one is good because they carry out the correct acts and practices, no matter what his thoughts might be like.
Let this be a warning to us, His disciples. We are not to be seduced by the ways of religion – where we hate others with our heart, inwardly harboring envy, jealousy and strife, concealing bitterness and pride, believing that our interior doesn’t matter, as long as all exterior behavior is maintained.
Legalism focuses on one’s outward action, but cares little for the inward state, making it possible to meticulously serve outwardly, while blatantly disobeying God inwardly – and that, is true hypocrisy.
There is no greater danger than mistaking religious behavior for true Christianity. Going to church, reading the Bible, giving and prayer do not make one a Christian. The crucial question is not “Are you acting Christianly?” but, “What is the state of your heart before God?” If the content of your heart is full of bitterness, grudges and pride, all the external behavior won’t matter, and life will remain in a hypocritical state.
The challenge for every disciple is to untangle man-made religion from a Christ-centered relationship. To dismiss our inner Pharisee, and welcome the heartwarming work of the Spirit.