Wash Your Hands
“Wash your hands! It’s time to eat.” These are some of the earliest words I remember hearing on Sunday after church when Mom had finished frying the lamb chops and stirring the mashed potatoes. And when it comes to eating and hygiene, it’s still great advice.
For example, this winter when it came to the flu epidemic, careful, thorough, repeated handwashing could be the difference between life and death. But like a lot of good things, even hand washing can become evil. When religion ritualizes the way we wash our hands before eating, writes it down and passes it down through the generations, and then makes the judgment that anyone who doesn’t follow these rules not only has dirty hands but a dirty heart, we’re in trouble.
If you want a good fight, try rejecting a group’s sacred traditions, especially those about eating and drinking and you’ll be touching some raw nerves. Not even Jesus could escape the scornful eyes of the experts from Jerusalem who confronted him about his disciples eating with dirty hands because they didn’t follow their instructions on washing your hands.
“The Pharisees and some of the religious legal experts came from Jerusalem to Jesus. When they saw his disciples eating their bread with unclean hands, that is without washing them properly. (You see, the Pharisees and all the Jews don’t eat until they have washed with their fist following in detail the tradition of the Elders. In the marketplace they don’t eat unless they have thoroughly immersed their hands, and they hold fast to a lot of other traditions—ritual baths and the careful washing of cups, pitchers, bronze kettles and the reclining couches.) So the Pharisees and the religious legal experts came and asked Jesus, ‘Why don’t your disciples walk in step with the tradition of the Elders; for they eat bread with unwashed hands?’” Mark 7:1-5
Before rushing on to Jesus’ response to these probing questions about religious cleanliness rules, let’s think about some of the traditions we hold in our “spiritual in group” and the ways that these traditions can exclude us from connecting with others. For example, when I was pastoring, I noticed that periodically there seemed to come waves of food diets that rolled through our congregation. If you missed what the latest fad was for being healthy, it could mean that a lot of food was wasted at the backyard barbecue you tried to use to connect church friends with your neighbors. Was Jesus persnickety about rituals when it came to whether or not you sat down to eat?
LORD, protect me from allowing rigidity about clothes, food, special holy days, or supposed sacred places to cause me to feel pride about how much I am pleasing you and to judge others who have different cultural traditions. Help me know when tradition is harmless and good, and when it becomes critical, mean, and angry.
For more from Dave Wyrtzen please visit TruthEncounter.com!