Way to Life-Lesson 5
Locate the Real Problem
Some important questions
What makes a person good?
What makes a person bad?
Is there a universal standard for what is good or bad?
Now Read today’s story (Mark 7:1-23)
Jewish Law – The Jewish people had laws that applied to every area of life. They had laws for religion, and all other rituals that went along with their religion. They had laws for civic and moral issues. They even had laws about what they could and could not eat, and when and how they should bathe.
The tradition of Corban – The Law was given to the Jews by God. In that Law, they were commanded to honor their father and mother. The teachers of the law and Pharisees studied the Law from God and made traditions to help them follow these laws, so that they would never appear to break one. One of the traditions they invented was that of Corban. This tradition taught that a son, who did not want to sell his property and give the money to help his needy parents, could dedicate all his property to God. Once his property was dedicated in this way, he could keep his property and never be able to sell it. When he died, the property would be given to the priests and religious leaders to sell and keep the money for themselves and the religious institutions.
In this story, Jesus condemns the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law for substituting their own traditions for the Law of God. It may look good to dedicate one’s property to God, but He wants people to love one another. He commanded that children honor their parents, not that they dedicate their property to Him. God does not want our property, but our hearts.
Understand the Vocabulary
“Pharisees” (7:1) were a very strict Jewish religious sect. For example, many of them thought that they would be honored by God if they ate the right foods, and washed their hands at the right times. They were, often, very proud, and condemned people who did not eat or wash properly.
“Disciples” (7:2) were the twelve men Jesus selected to go with Him, and learn from Him as He traveled and taught the people. They were the founders of Christianity after Jesus rose from the dead and returned to heaven. Their eye-witness accounts are what inspired the writing of the first four books of the New Testament in the Bible, known as the Gospels (books about the life of Jesus).
“Elders” (7:3) were older men who were leaders of their society in the past generations (and present generations). These elders had set up their own religious traditions and social rules and practices for the Jews to follow.
“Hypocrites” (7:6) are people who pretended to be one thing, but are really another. The word originally was used to describe actors in plays. When Jesus uses the word, He is saying that the Pharisees have acceptable social actions, but that their thoughts and attitudes are evil.
“Isaiah” (7:6) was one of God’s spokesmen (called prophets) in the Old Testament. He called people to change their bad thoughts, attitudes, and practices and to return to God.
“Worship” (7:7) means to give God the respect, recognition, and praise that He deserves.
“Moses” (7:10), as leader of the Jewish nation received the Law from God. Moses commanded the Jewish nation to obey these laws, because they had come from God.
“Unclean” (7:15), as Jesus used the term, is the moral condition of a person having bad character and guilt. That makes a person unacceptable to God.
“Evils” (7:23) in this context are sins: that is, bad attitudes and acts that break God’s laws for right living.
1. In their outward appearance, did the Pharisees and teachers of the law look like they were worshipping God? Did they sound like they were worshipping God? (7:3-7)
2. But what or whom were they really honoring and obeying instead of God? (7:6-11)
3. In verse 6, Jesus said that God can see into people’s hearts. What does that mean?
4. Where does evil (uncleanness), or sin come from? (7:14-23)
5. What does Jesus say is sin (uncleanness) in God’s view? (7:6-9 and 21-23)
6. If all of the things listed in verses 21 and 22 are within the hearts of people, what kind of hearts do people have? Do you believe that people, naturally, have both bad and good in their hearts?
Apply this lesson to your life
- According to the brief list in 7:21-23, are you unclean in God’s judgment? Have you ever thought something bad? --ever been greedy? -- ever lied to anyone?
- Isaiah said hypocrites try to appear good outwardly, but really have evil hearts. Have you ever attempted to make people believe you were a good person, when you really were a bad person on the inside (in your thoughts and attitudes)?
3. What does God see in us and know about us?
- What does God see as your greatest need?
- Are you willing to turn to God honestly in your heart? Do you want to love God with all your heart? Do you want to obey God, instead of following your selfish desires, or the desires of other people that conflict with God’s commands?
Accept God’s solution to your problem
This lesson revealed bad news about us because we must first admit that we have a problem. Only then will we want to look for a solution. Then God offers us good news of hoope and help. Jesus promised, “Happy are those who, more than anything else, desire a life that is right in God’s sight. God will give them that fully” (Matthew 5:6). And God promises us in the Bible: “If we confess our sins, God will forgive our sins…He will make us clean from all the wrongs we have done” (1 John 1:9). To receive God’s forgiveness, we must first be honest with ourselves and with God about our spiritual need. If we want God to make our hearts clean, then He will! If we want God to accept us into a loving, everlasting friendship with Himself, He will! In our next lessons we will learn more about how to receive that.