Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.’ You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.” Then he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban’ (that is, an offering to God)– then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this.” Then he called the crowd again and said to them, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”
In our lesson for today, Jesus is trying to point out to the Pharisees and the scribes that they are missing the point. They are too concerned with the cheap grace of religious rituals and not concerned enough with faithful living. They should worry less about who is and who is not obeying the religious dietary laws and pay more attention to those things being done and left undone that wound the soul. Jesus wants them to understand that being faithful involves so much more than just going through the motions.
Do you know what grace is? Grace is God’s never-ending love for you and me. A love that is free, unasked for and undeserved. In other words, grace is God’s love for us despite ourselves. Belief in the gift of grace is one of the central tenants of Christianity. Do you know what cheap grace is? It is a term first coined by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Cheap grace is the illusion that because God’s love is free, I can be a Christian without ever living a Christian life. Cheap grace says, I can be forgiven for whatever I do without the need for repentance, without the need to change my behavior. Cheap grace says, I can be a person of faith, but my faith doesn’t need to have any consequences for my life. Cheap grace says, I can live the life of the baptized without ever living a life of service. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without following Jesus Christ. Cheap grace, it is the illusion of Sunday morning Christianity. We come and pay God our respects, say our prayers, and receive the Eucharist, only to live our lives completely on our own terms the rest of the week.
If we are part of Christ’s flock on Sunday, then we must struggle to follow him Monday through Saturday, or what we do on Sunday matters very little.
Almighty God, whose loving hand has given us all that we possess: Grant us grace that we may honor you with our substance, and, remembering the account which we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your bounty, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.