401K – Corban

iPhone and laptop showing the stock market

What’s Corban

To the Pharisees Jesus said,

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God) — then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.

Mark 7:8-13

A Financial Sleight-of Hand

This exchange that Jesus has with the Pharisees is fascinating! Here’s what isn’t obvious: Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees which were the primary offenders of this within Jewish society. Think of it. It was the Pharisees that received the things given to God. They were the ones that received most of the wealth that came in from the sacrifices.

So, being the wise guys that they were, they claimed Corban. This meant that the wealth that poured in became theirs, for they received the sacrifices. And they had no obligation to use their wealth to care for their parents because by declaring Corban, they got to keep all the stuff.

“Now, this the scribes and Pharisees did for their own covetous ends. For most of them were priests, who received offerings made to God as his ministers, and then converted them to their own uses.”

The Pulpit Commentary

This may seem like an interesting backstory, but not relevant to our modern world. Well… Here’s the rub. God never removed our obligation to provide for our parents when they become elderly or infirmed. This tends to put a dent in middle-aged children’s’ retirement plans; old mom and dad’s needs are not a line item.

It’s easy for us to justify not helping Mom and Dad. We have the traditions of modern men. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, food stamps and so forth relieve us of any fiscal responsibilities.

It’s M&D’s own fault if they can barely stay afloat. We call “401K-Corban.” Anything we would normally have provided to M&D we will now pay a tithe on to our local church. Our church will praise God for their windfall, so all is good.

However, we must deal with this difficult statement from Jesus, in verse eight: You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” If calling 401K-Corban helps us sleep at night, then there’s no chance that Christians will change.

Photo by Jeremy Zero on Unsplash


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