Matthew 15:1-9 Lip Service

Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’[a] and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[b] But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’[c]

Lip Service

Jesus, I could be a Bible school professor who doesn’t care.  I could just go through the motions and keep my head down.  I am suspicious of some people who have great technical ability with the Hebrew and Greek, but they seem to lack a heart.  There are some professors I have met in my travels who seem cold.  Help my life and my mouth to match up.

It seems that we try and control you by making up rules, but we don’t relate to you when we try and control you.  You won’t be controlled.  I wonder why we try to do that.  Knowledge is power, it is true.  However, some of us think that because we know a lot about you, we have some kind of control.  Why do we think, “If I don’t worry about this, who will?”  We don’t need to worry.  It’s a lack of trust.  It’s a lack of faith.  Help us not to play games and to self-promote.  Help us only to want to promote you.


  1. What was the Pharisees problem with Jesus?
  2. What was Jesus’ problem with the Pharisees?
  3. What did the Pharisees care for details reveal about them?
  4. Why do detail-oriented people often suffer from a fear that they are not safe unless they take care of all the details?
  5. How can we be free from trying to control our lives and God through excessive rule making?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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