For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.” (Mark 7:10-13)
The system of “Corban” was a way of devoting money to the Lord without giving it to the Lord. It was more of a vow than a gift.
I think it is easy to see how such a religious tool could be misused. While one’s parents starved, a man could keep back money and say it was for the Lord’s use. Then, after his parents were out of danger or dead, he could “unvow” it…sort of like making a promise as a kid with our fingers crossed behind our backs.
The specific reason Jesus confronted this practice is because the Pharisees had been condemning His disciples for not following their rules, which had been added to God’s Law. Yet, while they condemned, they corrupted the Law themselves by employing loopholes for their own profit.
This is the problem with rules. Perhaps you have heard the old adage, “rules were made to be broken.” I would add that “rules are designed to be corrupted.”
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not against rules. I am not against religious rules.
The church I serve has a rule against the drinking or serving of alcoholic beverages at church sponsored events. While we recognize the Bible does not condemn drinking (but it does condemn drunkenness), we have determined it is counterproductive to conduct ministries that reach out to those whose lives have been destroyed by alcohol, either by their own misuse, or the misuse of others, and at the same time use church funds to sponsor events where people drink.
Since the time of the first church, as recorded in the book of Acts, leaders have made similar rules to address cultural problems (Acts 15).
The problem comes when we start looking at rules as signs of righteousness. In other words, if I said, “Because I don’t drink alcohol out of respect for my brothers and sisters who are battling alcoholism, I am closer to God”… that would be a sin. And if I turned around and drank alcohol at a non-church sponsored event, even though I was with the same brothers and sisters in Christ I said I was respecting in a church setting, that would be hypocrisy.
The basic idea of Jesus’ message today is that the Law, and any rules we create to help us live by the Law, are for the benefit of a pure conscience toward God. They are not intended to be used to puff ourselves up with self-righteousness, and if we commit to a rule, it should rule our whole life…not just the part others see.
For these reasons, rules can be a bit sticky. As I have said, they are not necessarily out of order…just ripe for abuse. It is probably best to keep them to a minimum.
Dear God, convict me of my inconsistencies. In Jesus’ name, Amen.