Selfishness…..twisting God’s higher purpose……this is something that Jesus accused the Pharisees and the teachers of the law (the Scribes) of. Jesus provides an example that is a little hidden due to language. I will explain. But, before I do, the important thing I want to point out is that this is simply one example among “many like that”!
Mark 7:10-13 (TNIV)
10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)– 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
This word in verse 11, “Corban“, needs some explanation. It speaks of much more than is evident here.
“The practice of Corban (literally, “offering”) meant that a person could dedicate something to God for his exclusive use. Thus, it was reserved for sacred use and withdrawn from profane or ordinary use by anyone else. Some people had done this, but in such a way that they didn’t give it to the temple. Instead, they only legally excluded their parents from using it. They could dedicate money to God’s temple that otherwise would have gone to support their parents (based on Deuteronomy 23:21-23 and Numbers 30:1-16). Thus, a man could simply take the vow of Corban, saying that all his money was dedicated to God. He could still use his money any way he chose, but could use his Corban vow as an excuse not to give any money to help his needy parents. Corban had become a religiously acceptable way to neglect one’s parents, circumventing responsibility to them.”
Reminder: The Pharisees were a group of religious leaders who advocated minute obedience to the Jewish law and traditions. Jesus often exposed their lack of true heart as adhering to traditions and expounding on the law primarily as a means to somehow control God, make themselves look good, benefit them, and lord over others.
Making these “add-on” rules to God’s Word that serve a special interest actually goes against God’s higher purposes. Selfishness is NEVER a part of God’s purpose. While we should give money and time as well as our talents to God, we must never use God as an excuse to neglect our family responsibilities. Helping family members is in need is one of the most important ways of honoring God.
I am always reminded as a pastor that the proper order or things in my life is “God (my personal relationship with Him), Family and THEN Vocation. I must always be careful that my vocation of serving God does not selfishly take me away from my family.