“Teachings on Justice” Sunday School Lesson Summary and Activities, Matthew 15:1-9

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Sunday School is a vital part of any ministry. In it, one is able to experience a deeper knowledge of God’s Word.  Here at “Word For Life Says,” I want to help you help others. Below you will find resources to help you prepare for your upcoming lessons and my personal summary notes that I use when teaching. May God bless you!

“Teachings on Justice”

Matthew 15:1-9

PDF Lesson Print Out is now Located at the Bottom of the Lesson. Please Scroll Down, Click and Enjoy!  Blessings!

Please Note: All lesson verses and titles are based on International Sunday School Lesson/Uniform Series ©2014 by the Lesson Committee, but all content/commentary written within is original to wordforlifesays.com unless properly quoted/cited. I am glad you like to read my personal summary notes, musings, and thoughts that I use when teaching, but as always you are encouraged to do your own studies as well.  Blessings!)

Also note: Some of the notes found in today’s lesson were discussed in a previous lesson “Jesus’ Teaching on the Law.”  This lesson is an updated version of that one.


Much to the chagrin of man, the world does not revolve around him.  Nor is it built on his ideologies or word.  The world and all that is in it were created by the original Word of God.  God spoke and things began to be and to exist.  He called forth and authored the beginning of all (Genesis 1).

What God says and does take precedence over everything else.  No other can compare in His power, might or authority.  What He says goes.  What He says is final.  What He says is law.

Man has, since the beginning of time, tried to overstep what God has already said, leading him in a downward spiral of degradation.  God’s law; His word will always stand as the final truth to all and will never, despite his best efforts, be usurped by man.

Matthew 15:1-2 “Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.”

The word “tradition” means to hand something down.  This is not the hand-me-downs of clothes many are familiar with.  It’s more about passing along the things that as a family, people, group, or society we do, and why we do them.  They are things held dear and of high esteem to the ones holding those traditions and treasuring them enough to make sure generations coming after follow suit.

In a lot of ways, the old can be a good and solid choice to follow.  Jeremiah 6:16 gives us a prime example by stating, “Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls…”  But, there are other times when particular traditional customs can be problematic, as we will find out in today’s lesson.

Almost since the beginning of time mankind has passed on information, stories, music and rules about one’s culture through the form of oral traditions.  One generation is responsible for passing it on to the next so that the backbone of said culture would not go extinct; so that the ways of the people would not vanish.

Moses received God’s laws, The Ten Commandments, spoken by God and written on stone as a testimony before His people forever.  The Ten Commandments are rules to live by and to govern oneself in a manner that is pleasing to God; they are guidelines in which to measure one’s life.

It is said that through time there was also a set of oral traditions that defined the ancient Jewish lifestyle and culture.  This came to be known as the Mishnah and was finally written down to preserve their way of life.  In today’s lesson, the “scribes and Pharisees” opposition to Jesus had nothing to do with God’s written law, rather they expressed concern over “the tradition of the elders;” things that came down through the years via oral tradition.

The issue for them revolved around the fact that Jesus’ “disciples” are charged, saying, “For they wash not their hands when they eat bread.”  Now, before you say gross and reach for your private bottle of sanitizing lotion, let’s remember the issue is not about cleanliness here, the issue for all involved is to whether or not the “disciples” are keeping “the tradition of the elders.” 

According to Mark 7, “When they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables,” (vs. 4).  These rituals had very little to do about physical cleanliness (as stated above) and were more rooted in the idea that people wanted to make sure they were ceremonially clean.  They devised these systems and traditions to bounce off of or “assist” the law in order to ensure that people would not be contaminated from other people, things, and the like when coming from places such as the market area of the day.

These traditions had become just as important as following God’s law (if not more so to some) and were made to seem like they were a law in and of itself.  It wasn’t, and Jesus was about to set the record straight on such matters.

Matthew 15:3-6 “But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?  For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.  But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;  And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.”

Jesus didn’t immediately deal with their supposed accusation against His disciples at this point, which in turn is really an accusation against Him, as their teacher and Master.  He will address that matter later in verses 14-23 (not in today’s printed text) where He explains that while man’s focus was on what was going into the body, Jesus’ focus was on what was coming out, because what was coming out was sure tell-tale sign of what was dwelling on the inside.  It may be according to the tradition of man, that in an effort to keep the inside clean and uncontaminated, one had to wash their hands before eating, but this was not so because the inner man mattered most and what he was producing outwardly.

The scribes and the Pharisees were more obsessed with rituals that guarded the outward man while neglecting true matters of the heart.  They were more concerned with people mimicking them and their ideologies than the written Word of God.  Therefore, Jesus countered their accusation with one of His own.

In concerning the matter of their traditions, one particularly bothered Jesus because it directly gave people permission to disobey God’s written law.   This was greed at its worst when one develops ways not to help family members in distress and needs so that they might keep all the gain for themselves.

Doing a quick overview of the Ten Commandments it has been noted that the first four commands of the ten are directly related to God (see Exodus 20:1-11) while the last six deals with human relationships and interactions with one another.  The ironic thing about today’s lesson is the Fifth Commandment, “Honour thy father and thy mother,” is the first of the final six, meaning this is the first commandment that God issued as law in dealing with human relationships.  This shows how important this particular commandment was to God.

That really hits home on why this is so important to Jesus.  Over time a tradition named “Corban” meaning a “gift” was developed (compare Mark 7:11).  The things dedicated as Corban were supposedly dedicated to God and could not be used or given to another (even though it has been said that such gifts were often kept in the possession of the one offering it and used by them).  Many were using this “gift” as a means of gain and in doing so justified themselves in disobeying and breaking the first commandment dealing with how to treat one another: honoring your parents.

They considered this tradition more important than God’s written law making “the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.”  They operated under the assumption that the concession they made for Corban was more important than following the fifth commandment.  Setting aside God’s word they elevated what man said versus what God said to a higher degree.

In the parallel version found in Mark 7, Jesus said, “Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition,” (Mark 7:9).  Jesus’ language is harsh in Mark and with good reason.  They are accused of rejecting what God said; meaning they have cast it off as nothing, and in so doing, have out and out refused Him.

This was unacceptable to Jesus (as it should be).  God wants us to keep HIS commandments above all else.  1 John 5:3 says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.”  This is how our love is demonstrated to God through the keeping of what He says (see also John 14:15, 21, 23).  And, as noted, His commandments are not “grievous” meaning burdensome, but the traditions of the elders, now that’s a different story.

The Apostle Paul will later give this warning to the Colossians: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ,” (2:8; emphasis mine).

There is another warning that comes from Deuteronomy 4:2, saying, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.”  The funny thing is this is exactly how the whole Bible ends (see Revelation 22:18-19) with the same warning.

Psalm 119:142 sums it up with this dynamic statement, “Thy law is the truth.”  And, His truth is absolute.  His way is right for all men, whether they acknowledge it or not; whether they think it’s relevant or not; whether they agree or not!

And, as they say nowadays, “Enough said!”

Matthew 15:7-9 “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.  But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

This is a matter of lip service versus heart service.  We call it “lip service” when someone does a lot of talking but doesn’t follow through in sincere action.  God considers this a great evil.  They have separated their devotion of God from their hearts while playing church on the outside.

This is also a dire warning to the church today.  Let us not approach God with just rituals and programs, but let our hearts come near Him in love and worship for who He is and all His glory.

God wants your inner man devoted to Him rather than surface professions of faith and the outward fulfilling of empty rituals. Why do you think God so approved of David despite his many, many faults?  He did so because David’s heart was for God.  Act 13:22 testifies of this and says, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart…”  David worshiped God and was devoted to God from the heart.  His inner man was tied to God.

In total opposition, the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus is addressing were “hypocrites.”  They were phony.  Their attitudes were fake in their love toward God.  They weren’t in a play, but boy did they put on a show (compare to other times when Jesus called the Pharisees and their companions hypocrites: Mt. 6:2, 5, 16; 7:5; 23:13-15, 23-29; Mk. 12:15; Lk. 12:56; 13:15).

They were more impressed with outward appearances and showmanship instead of the audience of One to whom they were supposed to be living for.  They say this but go and do that; go figure (compare Matthew 23:3)!

Jesus knew their hearts weren’t right in the traditions and customs they were using for selfish gain, and He was not shy about calling them out on it.

The sad thing is, this hypocrisy Jesus was calling them out on was something that was prophesied ahead of time by Isaiah the prophet.  Quoting Isaiah 29:13 Jesus said, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.  But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”  Isaiah prophesied a time when lip service would take precedence over true devotion from the heart, making their worship to God “vain,” ineffective, useless and empty (compare Jeremiah 12:2).

The last thing that any of us should want is to come to God with empty worship or to have hearts that are “far from me” as Jesus was describing here.  Our worship should be seeking His glory.  This is all about what’s real versus what’s fake; what are His ways as opposed to our own.  We should want and need our worship to be full of all of Him and to be of its truest form before Him that when we are drawing nigh unto Him, He is coming near to where we are (compare James 4:8).

Rather, these men on the receiving end of Jesus’ accusation, patterned themselves more after what was being taught by other men, then blessing God with a life wholly dedicated to Him, both inside and out.

Please Note: This lesson is not supporting one to be disobedient or negligent of the teachings of a true man or woman of God serving in the role of pastor and the like.  Their roles are wholly supported over and over again in the Bible, and we are taught to respect them in those roles.  As true people and workers of God, they will earnestly and honestly seek to lead their sheep down the right path.  This lesson is speaking directly to hypocritical teaching and the elevation of man’s word (traditions that drew men away from observing God’s law) over God’s, something a true man or woman of God will not do.

“Teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”  It was prophesied, and the scribes and the Pharisees, through the traditions passed down from generation to generation, are doing just that.  They have elevated man’s teachings to be equal to, or in some instances, to be above or in the same authority as God’s Word (compare Colossians 2:22).

The Apostle Paul will later teach about, “Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth,” (Titus 1:14), showing the negative effects false doctrine can have on true faith.

There are no literature, customs, stories or traditions, written or oral, that rivals the true Word of God.  In an article I previously published, I wrote about the importance of having a “Relationship with the Word!”  In it I said:

“There is an indescribable value in the Word of God to them that believe and hold dear its truths…

In His Word we find healing, promises, anointing, salvation, understanding and more.  We should not take lightly the gift of the Word:

  • “Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart!” (vs. 2).
  • “You have commanded us to keep Your precepts diligently,” (vs. 4).
  • “Oh, that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes,” (vs. 5).
  • “Let me not wander from Your commandments!” (vs. 10)
  • “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You,” (vs. 11).
  • “I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches,” (vs. 14).
  • “My soul breaks with longing for Your judgments at all times,” (vs. 20).
  • “Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end,” (vs. 33).
  • “Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it,” (vs. 35).
  • “Establish Your word to your servant, who is devoted to fearing You,” (vs. 38).
  • “Behold, I long for Your precepts; revive me in Your righteousness,” (vs. 40).
  • “Remember the word to Your servant, upon which You have caused me to hope,” (vs. 49).
  • “Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe Your commandments,” (vs. 66).
  • “I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are right,” (vs. 75).
  • “Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven,” (89).
  • “Unless Your law had been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction,” (vs. 92).
  • “You are my hiding place and shield; I hope in Your word,” (vs. 114).
  • “Direct my steps by Your word,” (vs. 133).
  • “Great peace have those who love Your law, and nothing causes them to stumble,” (vs. 165).

These are just a very few of the many written within that psalm (speaking of Psalm 119) and just a few of the many that I have personally highlighted.” (Relationship with the Word/Word for Life Says).

And yet, despite all its power, all its authority, all the wonderful that God has in His Word, the scribes and the Pharisees were taking lightly the gift of His Word and giving what “they say” the more leading role in the lives of the people by “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”    

Isaiah will later go on to say, “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” (Isaiah 40:8).  Everything in this world including the “commandments of men” will pass away, but God’s Word will always remain (see Psalm 119:89; Matthew 24:35; Luke 21:33).

It is unfailing.  It is always right.  And, it will always be the right way to follow.  Everything in life should be measured by the Word of God.  What God’s Word says matters more.

In the following chapter, when the Pharisees tried to tempt Jesus into proving Himself through a sign from heaven (16:1), after that incident, Jesus taught His disciples the importance of being on guard against the “leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (16:6), meaning to beware against their “doctrine,” (16:12).  Just as the leaven in last week’s lesson could permeate and grow, describing the kingdom of heaven, the wrong doctrine of the Pharisees can work much in the same way by permeating its way into people’s hearts.


Jesus noted the observance of God’s Word triumphs over the traditions of man.  People may attempt to treat God and His Word with contempt and act like or presume what they have to say or believe matters more.  But, God has and will always have the final say.  May we give the more earnest heed to what God says and pattern our lives in the just ways that He calls us to.

Standard Print PDF: Teachings on Justice Sunday School Lesson Summary Standard Print

Large Print PDF: Teachings on Justice Sunday School Lesson Summary Large Print

Below you will find activities to support this week’s lesson.  Enjoy!

Word Search: Teachings on Justice Word Search  Answers: Teachings on Justice Word Search Answers

Crossword: Teachings on Justice Crossword  Answers: Teachings on Justice Crossword Answers

Word Scramble: Teachings on Justice Word Scramble  Answers: Teachings on Justice Word Scramble Answers

Draw the Scene: Teachings on Justice Draw the Scene

Memory Verse: Teachings on Justice Memory Verse

Below you will find Activities/Links/Resources to help support today’s lesson.  Enjoy!

“My Heart Worships God!” Person: Worshiping God from the heart as opposed to lip service is one of the main points of this week’s lesson. The following two projects are simple for students to assemble while making the lesson personal to them. The verse for the following projects come from Isaiah 29:13, the same verse Jesus was quoting when He addressed the scribes and the Pharisees of today’s lesson. Enjoy!


With this project your students can make a replica of themselves as dedicated people who have a heart to worship God.  Simply make a person template out of cardstock or download one such as Art Venturers.  Let students decorate the person to be like them.  Then, print out the PDF Small Heart Worships or Small Heart Worships Red and attach the heart to the person with glue.  Next, to give the person the ability to “hang around” whereever your students wish, glue a clothespin on the back and there you have it.  Enjoy!  (Don’t forget, cardstock works best if available).

“My Heart Worships God!” Plaque:


Using large or small, colored or plain crafts sticks and this PDF Heart Worships or Red Heart Worships and string and tape,  students can decorate and create a plaque to hang anywhere to remind them of today’s important lesson.  SImply tape the string to the back of the plaque.  Enjoy! (Don’t forget, using cardstock is best if available).

“A Clean Heart” (A very good and simple object lesson involving soap and a banana. Enjoy!)

“Clean and Unclean” (This site is amazing. Not only is this a great lesson but it has great printables to reproduce for your class.  Activities as well as a Clean/Unclean Heart craft to print out and make.  I hope you will enjoy!)

“Wash Those Hands? printable activity sheet”

“True Worship” (Here is another lesson with a corresponding coloring sheet titled “Let’s Praise Jesus!”  Enjoy!)

“Skin Deep or From the Heart” (Here you will find a great lesson from the parallel in Mark 7 with lots of printable activities.  Also included are great group activities including: Lips and Hearts, Tissue Paper Hearts and Heart Washing.  All sounds like great fun for your class.  Enjoy!)

“What Defiles a Person?”

“I Can Do Right by Obeying God’s Law Coloring Page”

“Obey the Lord Your God Puppet/Teacher Skit” (What a way to teach a lesson on obedience for God over men’s traditions!  With practice and a puppet from the dollar store (oh yeah, dollar store, I have lots) this can be really easy to do.  Don’t have or can’t get a puppet, make a paper bag puppet.  The students can make one of themselves as a person dedicated to following God with their heart and not just their lips. Awesome! Enjoy!) – Below are some I made for a previous lesson with templates from Teachershelp.org: boy and girl (cardstock is best to use) – Add verse cut out below to the back of your puppet


Matthew 15 8 Verse Cut Out-001

click pdf link below for accurate printing

Matthew 15:8 PDF: Matthew 15 8 Verse Cut Out

Isaiah 29:13 Coloring Sheet:  PDF Is. 29 vs 13 Coloring Sheet (Use coloring sheet as is or make a decorated poster.  Enjoy!)  (Special Note: Print out from PDF or download for accurate print.)


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