Summary: When our need for conforming to outward observances exceeds our regard for inward spiritual reality we need to address our spiritual obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Spiritual Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder - Matthew 15:1-20

1 Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law now arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They asked him, 2 “Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.”

3 Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? 4 For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ 5 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ 6 In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents. And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,

8 ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9 Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’”

10 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “Listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 11 It’s not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth.”

12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?”

13 Jesus replied, “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted, 14 so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person guides another, they will both fall into a ditch.”

15 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Explain to us the parable that says people aren’t defiled by what they eat.”

16 “Don’t you understand yet?” Jesus asked. 17 “Anything you eat passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer. 18 But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.”

"Obsessive-compulsive disorder: A psychiatric disorder characterized by obsessive thoughts and compulsive actions, such as cleaning, checking, counting, or hoarding. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), one of the anxiety disorders, is a potentially disabling condition that can persist throughout a person’s life. The individual who suffers from OCD becomes trapped in a pattern of repetitive thoughts and behaviors that are senseless and distressing but extremely difficult to overcome. OCD occurs in a spectrum from mild to severe, but if severe and left untreated, can destroy a person’s capacity to function at work, at school, or even in the home." (From

People who suffer from OCD must certainly be hurting. And those who have to live with them suffer as well. It is a condition that needs treatment.

Likewise when we find that we suffer from spiritually similar symptoms we need treatment.

Let’s learn from the treatment Christ offers.

When Christ was approached by the Pharisees and teachers of the law they did not question the disciples’ conformity to the law of Moses, but rather their lack of conformity to the traditions of the elders. They were obsessive and compulsive about the strict observance of their traditions, which were external observances, but neglected to form a godly inner spiritual attitude of heart that a true relationship with God produces.

God does not accept worship that is only concerned with externals. He must be worshiped from the heart.


1. Antagonism toward those who express spiritual liberty in Christ.

The Pharisees and teachers of the law did not travel to see Jesus because they wanted to sincerely seek His teaching. They only wanted to confront Him about the failure of His followers to observe the ceremonial hand washing ritual which was their tradition.

When our attitude is more about setting others straight because they do not cross their "t’s" and dot their "i’s" the same way we do more than seeking a deeper walk with Christ, then we have a hint that we are spiritually obsessive and compulsive.

A second attitude of spiritual obsessive-compulsive disorder is illustrated in the lives of the religious hypocrites:

2. Abdication of responsiblity.

Christ was quick to point out the duplicity in the character of the religious hypocrites.

They even had an excuse for disobeying the Scriptural command to "Honor your father and mother." (Verses 3-9)

Jesus did not buy the abdication of their responsibility to obey God’s Word in order that they may keep their tradition.

Whenever we find excuses for obeying the Word of God in order to please our sinful human nature we can rest assured the diagnosis is sin.

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