instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A high and lonely calling

I spent pretty much the whole weekend working on an article about the concept of qorban, which Jesus mentions in condemning the Pharisees:
"How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition! For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and 'Whoever curses father or mother shall die.' Yet you say, 'If a person says to father or mother, "Any support you might have had from me is qorban"' (meaning, dedicated to God), you allow him to do nothing more for his father or mother. You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things."
It's an idea somewhat foreign to modern culture. From one perspective, it amounts to transferring ownership of a temporal good to God while retaining free use of it. You don't have to by a cynic to see how something like that might be abused.

Note, though, that Jesus doesn't condemn the practice of qorban as such. He doesn't say there's anything wrong with dedicating something to God. What He objects to is using this tradition to one's own, personal advantage and another's disadvantage. The child in His example is personally and materially better off having declared his property qorban than he would be otherwise. Even if he didn't do it to avoid having to support his parents, if the net result is that he doesn't support them, he still commits the double sin of failing to honor his parents and trying to excuse himself by invoking the LORD.

Anyway, as I said, I spent most of the weekend studying this practice and writing up some thoughts about it. It wasn't easy; the kids kept pestering me to come out and play, and at meals my wife would pointedly mention some chores that needed doing. I tried to explain gently to everyone that I've made a personal commitment to be more diligent in studying Holy Scripture, but I don't think they fully understand.