Nullifying Scripture | Mark 7:9–13
And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban” ’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
Sometimes one group of Christians will charge a second group of following “the traditions of men” if that second group believes a theological point that the first rejects. It may be that the charge is valid. Too often, however, that first group misapplies what Jesus actually addressed.
Until this point in the chapter, we’ve seen that Jesus and the disciples didn’t follow the Pharisaic custom of ritualistic handwashing, and Jesus highlights that such traditions don’t arise from genuine worship or concern for the Word of God. In this exchange, He says they use tradition to cancel out Scripture.
God’s commands were to be taken seriously. Jesus condemns them specifically for “rejecting the commandment of God.” While He highlights the fifth of the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:12), He also says “many such things you do,” indicating that they violated other parts of the Law (cf. Mt 5:19). In pointing out this commandment, Jesus also quotes Exodus 21:17, showing the weight God gave the command through its demand for the death penalty for disobedience.
However, they focused on taking their traditions seriously. Jesus speaks ironically in v. 9; “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment” or “All too well you reject [it]” (NKJV). They had the tradition of Corban, a gift supposedly dedicated to God’s service. Grown sons avoided paying their parents money by declaring the money Corban, and a vow made to God cannot be violated (Nm 30:2). So, instead of handing down the teaching of Scripture, the scribes and Pharisees handed down the nullification of Scripture.
People hold to a tradition of man when they hear the Word of God abused in such a way to get around the clear teaching of Scripture and choose to accept it. The examples of this are numerous—the acceptance of wrong lifestyles, the justification of lusts, etc. This twisting of Scripture is sinful, as it does not honor God or His Word. Don’t accept a tradition that props up sinful readings of Scripture.