A while back, my mother signed me up for daily bible reading emails from the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). I must confess, I disregarded them from the get-go, assuming that I didn’t want to pollute myself with anything from Pat Robertson’s large, self-aggrandizing corporation/network. I’ve always felt that the 700 Club feigns a nitty grittyness but does not actually believe in its audience’s capacity of mind…

But that didn’t stop me from watching the show with her occasionally. We would sit there at the end of every episode, both of us hoping that one of Pat’s prayers would heal some physical ailment we were dealing with, or ease our ever-looming financial problems, or heal a son’s/brother’s addiction. Even then, and that was half a lifetime ago, I knew deep down that the show was missing the point. No matter how poignant the tales told on 700 Club became – chronicling all manner of drunkards, prostitutes, broke husbands, powerless mothers, other losers and burnouts – and no matter how large Pat Robertson’s global crusade grew, all of our energy, patience and godly focus was pointed at the miracle-producing 5 minute closing-prayer. Sadly, it was always a letdown. How convicting this is today.

Anyway, this morning I sheepishly clicked on one of the many links to CBN.com now living in my inbox, thanks to my mother, and found myself reading the following passage from Matthew (Chapter 15). Despite my prejudice, and as much as I might like to hide from what it says, I cannot deny its power:

Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ he is not to ‘honor his father’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

“These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules taught by men.'”

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’ “ Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”

“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’ “