In the gospel, Jesus holds us to task that we go beyond the letter of the law and live the spirit. The critics were focusing on very specific behaviors (the washing of the hands) without regard to the broader picture and intent of why we need to be doing these particular things. It reminded me of how we sometimes in our daily lives lose track of why we are doing certain things – what the true picture may be. For instance, if I spend all my time assuring that my house is immaculate because that is what my children need to be healthy yet spend no time with them what does it matter? Of course, that was never a concern from my children, they never worried I was spending too much time cleaning (perhaps the opposite). If my goal is the well-being of my children, then every action should be consistent with that intent not just performing arbitrary tasks. If my goal is to be closer to God and to prepare myself for a life beyond this one on earth, then every action and how I live my life should be consistent with that intent not just following the letter of the law.
(Adapted from Nancy Shirley)