You may read the title of this post and say, “I don’t have either. This isn’t for me.” Still, I hope you take a few minutes and read this as a reminder and for the good of our society.
You may have heard the old saying, “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” It seems that one of humanity’s many shortcomings is the temptation to seek ways to manipulate laws to give ourselves an advantage over other people. Jesus challenged the Jewish leaders because He saw this manipulation taking place in a way that both caused suffering to elderly parents and also injury to the Jewish society.
The word Jesus used was “corban.” This word is only found once in the Bible, and that’s in Mark 7:11. However, we find Jesus addressing this action in Matthew 15:5. Corban means “a gift or offering consecrated to God1.” The intent of corban is found in several places in the Old Testament. However, the traditions that Jewish leaders expanded corban far beyond God’s law.
God Never Contradicts Himself
Moses had instructed God’s people to “honor their father and mother2”, but the Pharisees bypassed that command by teaching people that they could give money to the temple in place of helping their needy parents.
The Pharisees said that whatever money or possessions that sons should provide for the care of elderly parents could instead be dedicated to the temple treasury simply by calling it corban. This would exempt a son from his responsibility to his parents. In other words, the Pharisees took a legitimate corban offering and used it in an illegitimate and devious way to defraud parents and enrich themselves. They used their tradition to supersede the Law of God concerning parents.
The Sneaky Part
We won’t find any advantage to a child if we think: Give $1,000 to the church or give $1,000 to his parents. Either way, the child is out $1,000. Well, here is the sneaky part. Anything dedicated to the temple by corban belonged to the temple in theory. Land could not be permanently given to the temple. Any dedicated money or possessions given to the temple did not mean that the giver had to “hand over the goods!”
Those dedicated possessions might stay with the owners! So, by declaring things as corban, sons could avoid using their money to care for aging parents while still keeping their stuff. The vow did not require them to hand over their cash, yet they were actually prohibited from ever using corban property for the support of their parents3.
What Does That Have to do With Me
God, our Father, knows that we need stuff to live, and He wants us to enjoy the life He has given us4. Happiness is based on what happens, but joy is a gift from God5. As faithful followers, redeemed by the blood of Jesus and saved by God’s grace, it is essential that we live in obedience to the commands of Jesus Christ6.
The Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to write:
“Take care of any widow who has no one else to care for her. But if she has children or grandchildren, their first responsibility is to show godliness at home and repay their parents by taking care of them. This is something that pleases God. – 1 Timothy 5:3–4 NLT
All “care” requires some sacrifice. If it’s money we care about, then we will sacrifice other obligations for our money. We need to remember, “Love people, and use things. Not, use people and love things.”
There’s an old saying, “One mother can raise four kids, but four kids can’t care for one mother.” Searching for ways to sneak around our responsibilities to aging parents or grandparents is an act of futility. We won’t find any.
First, for obedience to our Lord, and second for the good of our parents. Third, for the good of society, and fourth, for our good when we become elderly, we need to help our aging parents and grandparents. It’s just the right thing to do.
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: Easton’s Bible Dictionary.
: Exodus 20:12.
: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
: 1 Timothy 6:17
: Romans 15:13
: John 14:15