As little children we learn to manipulate. One of the amusing examples that I’ve seen is when my niece or nephew asks my brother for something and doesn’t get the desired result, he or she then goes to their mom to see if the outcome might be more in their favor. I’m not sure anyone taught them how to be manipulative, but as fallen human beings, these things seem to crop up in our lives on their own.
The Pharisees were masters of manipulation finding God’s hidden “loopholes.” These chapters from Matthew and Mark share Jesus’ frustration with the matter. Here’s how it worked itself out: the Pharisees would dedicate all of their belongings to God. That sounds really spiritual. But then as their parents aged and needed support, the Pharisees wouldn’t have to give them anything because their stuff was already committed to the Lord. How selfish would those parents have been to take from God what belonged to Him?
So the Pharisees figured out this loophole where they could look really spiritual by dedicating their things to the Lord so they wouldn’t have to use those things to care for their elderly parents. Spiritual, huh? They found a loophole and exploited it for their own purposes. But here’s the joke: they didn’t fool God. He was well aware of what they were doing, and he disapproved of the entire thing. They missed God’s true blessing because they were trying to work the system in their favor. The same is true for us when we try to manipulate the situation into our favor with God. He doesn’t have loopholes; He knows our hearts.