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THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW - Chapter 15 - Verse 5
Verse 5. It is a gift. In Mark it is corban. The word corban is a Hebrew word, denoting a gift. It here means a thing dedicated to the service of God; and, therefore, not to be appropriated to any other use. The Jews were in the habit of making such dedications. They devoted their property to him, for sacred uses, as they pleased. In doing this they used the word corban, or some similar word; saying this thing is corban, i.e., is a gift to God, or is sacred to him. The law required that when a dedication of this kind was made, it should be fulfilled. "Vow, and pay unto the Lord your God," Ps 76:11. See De 23:21. The law of God required that a son should honour his parent; i.e., among other things, provide for his wants when he was old, and in distress. Yet the Jewish teachers said that it was more important for a man to dedicate his property to God than to provide for the wants of his parent. If he had once devoted his property—once said it was corban, or a gift to God —it could not be appropriated even to the support of a parent. If a parent was needy and poor, and if he should apply to a son for assistance, and the son should reply, though in anger, "It is devoted to God—- this property which you need, and by which you might be profited by me, is corban, I give to God,"—the Jews said the property could not be recalled, and the son was not under obligation to aid a parent with it. He had done a more important thing, in giving it to God. The son was free. They would not suffer him to do anything for his father after that. Thus he might in a moment free himself from the obligation to obey his father or mother. In a sense somewhat similar to this the chiefs and priests of the Sandwich Islands had the power of devoting anything to the service of the gods, by saying that it was tabu, or tabued. That is, that it became consecrated to the service of religion; and no matter who had been the owner, it could then be appropriated to no other use. In this way they had complete power over all the possessions of the people, and could appropriate them to their own use under the pretence of devoting them to religion. They thus deprived the people of their property under the plea that it was consecrated to the gods; the Jewish son deprived his parents of a support under the plea that the property was devoted to the service of religion. The principle was the same and both systems were equally a violation of the rights of others.
Besides, the law said that a man should die that cursed his father; i.e., that refused to obey him, or to provide for him, or spoke in anger to him. Yet the Jews said, that though in anger, and in real spite and hatred, a son said to his father, "All that I have which could profit you, I have given to God," he should be free from blame. Thus the whole law was made void, or of no use, by what appeared to have the appearance of piety. No man, according to their views, was bound to obey the fifth commandment, and support an aged and needy parent, if either from superstition or spite he chose to give his property to God, that is, to some religious use.
Our Saviour did not mean to condemn the practice of giving to God, or to religious and charitable duties. This the law and the gospel equally required. He commended even a poor widow that gave all her living, Mr 12:44. But he meant to condemn the practice of giving to God, where it interfered with our duty to parents and relations: where it was done to get rid of the duty of aiding them; and where it was done out of a malignant and rebellious spirit, with the semblance of piety, to get clear of doing to them what God required.
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