The Pharisees and teachers asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples obey what our ancestors taught us to do? Why do they eat without washing their hands?”
You are nothing but show-offs! The prophet Isaiah was right when he wrote that God had said,
“All of you praise me with your words,
but you never really think about me.
It is useless for you to worship me,
when you teach rules made up by humans.”
You disobey God’s commands in order to obey what humans have taught. You are good at rejecting God’s commands so that you can follow your own teachings! Didn’t Moses command you to respect your father and mother? Didn’t he tell you to put to death all who curse their parents? But you let people get by without helping their parents when they should. You let them say that what they own has been offered to God. You won’t let those people help their parents. And you ignore God’s commands in order to follow your own teaching. You do a lot of other things that are just as bad. (Mark 7:5–13)
The religious leaders carefully counted all the commandments of God and came up with a list of 613. To help make sure that no one would every violate any of those 613 commandments, they devised additional rules to serve as a hedge to protect them. Exodus 23:19 commanded that a calf should not be boiled in its mother’s milk. So the Pharisees decided that meat and milk products should never be consumed together. In Exodus 20:7 God said that his name should not be taken in vain. So they decided that God’s name could never be spoken.
The extra laws could also be twisted to personal advantage. The Pharisees dedicated their wealth to God so that it could only be used for him. But since they considered themselves to be in God’s service, the Pharisees could continue to benefit from their wealth, even as their parents were left destitute.
It is easy to drift far away from God’s will even as we claim to follow him. Jesus wants us to obey God and discover his will from him, rather than obeying people who claim they know God’s will for us.