By Mark Shaw
As I was reflecting upon my reading of the Bible in the book of Mark, I thought about how this principle applies to us today.
Let’s examine Mark 7:1-13, which says,
Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, 2 they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” 9 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.”
One of the principles Jesus was teaching was how the traditions of humans tend to be chosen over the commandments of God.
Today, there are many examples of this and there are several examples from addiction circles.
One of them is the idea that addiction is a genetic brain disease that no one cannot do anything about. Though widely accepted, this theory has no real scientific evidence. What does the Bible say about this issue?
The Bible says that choices stem from the heart desires of sinful mankind.
Jesus Himself never called the problem a disease but labeled it drunkenness.
It is interesting that this same chapter 7 in Mark continues to address this very issue. What defiles a person is not the outward behaviors but the inward desires of the heart. Jesus says in verses 14-23:
14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
Jesus was not giving an exhaustive list but several examples of the defiled behaviors that proceed from the heart and in addiction circles, “evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness” are all attending sins of those enslaved to an addiction. Those actively using and living the lifestyle of an addict participate in many, if not all, of those words including two not on the list: drunkenness and idolatry.
Yet, human tradition, that addiction proceeds from some theoretical disease, overrules biblical truth in the minds of many in our society, and that is akin to the problem Jesus was addressing in Mark 7:1-13 about Corban.
We cannot elevate and esteem tradition above Scripture, especially in regard to the problem of addiction.
Too many lives are at stake as persons continue to be enslaved to alcohol, opioids, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines, benzodiazepines and other drug categories. All of those drugs are sought after because of the addicted person’s heart. Sharing this truth with the addicted, along with the biblical principle (that they will one day give an account to God), can be motivating factors for them to start a new life of recovery and transformation!