He was also saying to them [the scribes and Pharisees], “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death’; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”
The Mosaic instruction for honoring parents was serious, as illustrated by the severe consequence for speaking evil of them. The Pharisees were caught between a rock and a hard place – in their greed and selfishness they wanted to hoard the money designated to support their parents. But they also did not want to be seen (by God, or by man) as violating the clear Mosaic law.
Their devious solution created a mechanism that projected an image of “righteousness” while giving them what they wanted. They would give their money “to God”, but would still control the spending – they would be the recipient of their own “generosity” instead of their parents.
This was not just about the Pharisees giving to a “greater and more worthy cause” than their parents – although they certainly wanted it to look that way. They were deceitfully hoarding the funds, shirking their responsibilities, and using false “piety” to further glorify themselves while masking their evil behavior.
It is a classic narcissist move – creating an excuse that cannot be criticized or questioned as a smokescreen for their self-centered and self-serving actions. And, if the smokescreen itself is useful as the means of achieving their goal – all the better.