““The Traditions Of Men Vs. The Word Of God.””Categories: Authority, Bible, Choices, Christian, Church, Daily Living, Expository Study, God, Inspiration, Jesus Christ, Mark, New Testament
The Pharisees were constantly at odds with Jesus and His disciples. No occasion makes it more defined than Mark 7:1-16. There, the Pharisees confronted Jesus and His disciples for not keeping “the tradition of the elders” (v. 3, 5). Mark explains that these people held their traditions in high regard. One such tradition had to do with the washing of their hands. They had been taught that unless one washes his hands to his elbows before eating, then the food he eats is considered unclean by God. By extension, eating this unclean food made the person unclean as well. Similarly, there was a demand for washing the pots, cups, and other vessels holding the food. Jesus would later say that He was more concerned about what came out of the mouth rather than what was put into the mouth (Mk. 7:15; Matt. 15:17-20).
Jesus then pointed out that they had another tradition that if someone gave a gift to the Temple, this exempted him from providing needed money and care to his parents (“Corban” - Mk. 7:11-13). This person could say essentially, “I gave at the Temple” rather than giving needed funds to his parents. Jesus said this and several other traditions had “made God’s word of none effect” (Mk. 7:13). God never intended for His commands to be placed at odds against each other. The Law of Moses granted people the ability to give a gift to the Temple and care for their parents. The Pharisees, in contrast, encouraged them to do one thing and exclude the other.
What does “tradition” mean? A tradition is simply something we’ve done for a long time. We can certainly think of many things we do as individuals, as a community, as a church, and as a nation that fit in the category of “traditional.” Traditions are not equal with inspired Scripture, though (II Tim. 3:16-17)! After reading Mark 7, we might all agree that it is a good idea to wash one’s hands and eat off of clean plates. Yet, Jesus showed how the people’s traditions had become sinful because they “set aside” God’s commands and made God’s word “of none effect” (Mk. 7:8, 13). Traditions in and of themselves aren’t necessarily sinful. It is when we place our traditions above God’s revealed will that we have a problem!
This is why I titled this essay “The Traditions Of Men Vs. The Word Of God.” If we are not careful, we will end up treating a tradition as truth or as an unbreakable command when, in reality, it is not in that category at all! Let me hasten to add this is not an article condemning everything “traditional.” Paul even wrote to the Thessalonians and reminded them that some traditions come from God (II Thess. 2:15). Indeed, there are many things Christians (and non-Christians) do that, while traditional, aren’t sinful. Mark 7 (and Matthew 15) reveal, though, that men placing traditions above God’s commands is a real possibility. After years of practicing these, the Pharisees preferred their traditions to God’s word. In so doing, Jesus said they were sinning.
How can I know whether or not a tradition I am practicing will place me at odds with God’s word? A simple test is: Ask whether or not my tradition came from God (II Thess. 2:15, 3:6; I Pet. 4:11)? Am I doing something simply because “Dad and Mom” liked it, or a preacher said to do it, or because we as a nation have “always done it”? Am I doing something because I have found it authorized in the Bible (II Tim. 3:16-17; Col. 3:17)? Traditions can lead me into sin if I give them as much respect as I do the word of God.
When we look at traditions from this perspective, I hope we see that there are many things we do that can be called “traditional.” Are any of these traditions obstacles to our spiritual growth? If so, then those need to end! Practicing man’s traditions is not worth losing our souls (Matt. 16:26)!
God’s word must come first in my life (Matt. 6:33)! After that, everything else must fall into place. When we get this in the wrong order, we will have problems, but when we do it right, we will be blessed! The Pharisees’ problem was they placed their traditions above God’s will and were condemned for it. It got so bad they refused to recognize Jesus as Christ because He didn’t fit what they wanted. Let us learn the lesson and put Christ and the gospel first and lay our traditions aside when they conflict with what Christ has said! Let us get this right because our traditions will die one day, but the word of God will never pass away (Matt. 24:35; I Pet. 1:25; Ps. 119:89; etc.)!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs