Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
By Dell Smith Klein
A small wash basin and a wrapped bar of soap
Do you wash your hands before you eat? (Allow the children to respond.) Clean hands help us stay healthy. Dirty hands might have germs on them that can make us sick. So, it’s important to wash our hands isn’t it? (Acknowledge the children’s comments. Also, you might show the wash basin and bar of soap here.) Yes, we want our hands to be clean before we eat, don’t we?
One time some people noticed that some of Jesus’s followers were eating without first washing their hands. Those people asked Jesus why his disciples ate with unwashed hands. Jesus responded to the people who questioned him, but he talked about something very different.
Jesus talked about following God. The people who were asking the question about unwashed hands might have had clean hands, because they were following tradition. Tradition is something like a habit. Tradition is something we do every day without even thinking about it––like washing our hands before we eat, or like brushing our teeth.
Jesus knows our hearts and he knew the hearts of the people who were complaining about his followers’ unwashed hands. He told them they were like people the prophet Isaiah wrote about, “You set aside the commandment of God, and hold tightly to the tradition of men…” (v. 8). It sounds like Jesus was unhappy with those people for thinking that clean hands were more important than a clean heart.
Jesus wasn’t saying that washing our hands is wrong. Instead, he was reminding the people that they were not living faithfully for God. In fact they were not honoring God by following God’s rules. Jesus said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (v. 6). I wouldn’t want to do that, would you? (Allow children to answer.) No. I want my words to honor God. I also want my heart to be clean before God.
We don’t want to eat food contaminated by germs that will make us sick. (Pick up the wash basin and the bar of soap.) That’s why we have soap and water, so we can wash our hands. But even more important, we don’t want to hear, say or read words that will contaminate our minds and hearts. That’s why we have Jesus and the Holy Bible so that we can know and do the truth.
Thank you God for water and soap so that we can wash our hands and keep them clean. Thank you for Jesus who gives us a clean heart. Help us to honor you in everything we say and do. Amen.
Scripture quotations from the World English Bible
Copyright 2013, Richard Niell Donovan