5 The Pharisees and the experts in the law asked him, “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with unwashed hands?” 6 He said to them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7 They worship me in vain, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men.’ 8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” 9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.
“Traditions are the guideposts driven deep in our subconscious minds. The most powerful ones are those we can’t even describe, aren’t even aware of.” – author unknown
Traditions can be precious when they are founded on the word of God and there is genuine understanding in keeping them. They can also be a hindrance to our faith that pulls away from sincere love of God if we are not careful. Bound to them by duty and not conviction is a prison which does not inspire ardent joy that we can have in Christ. Imposing convictions as duty on others is also once again vain tradition.
That does not mean that some traditions are not worth keeping, but it is a personal decision that must be made by each soul wandering through this adventure called life.
When I was first saved, my eyes were opened to many traditions I had been following, blindly. We do not have to be a religious person to live according to traditions. We might not even recognize the control certain belief systems have over us and that we are ascribing mental ascent to them.
The Pharisees probably get a bad rap because of their religiosity, but I wonder how they got there. It frightens me to think that I could drift away from a simple life hidden in Christ and become religious, instead. Yet, it I am honest, that is the natural progression if we are not mindful. The Pharisees were upset when they saw that the disciples were not subscribing to the ritual washing before eating. It was shocking to them. But where did this ritual washing come from?
At the root of the purpose of ritual washing was holiness. Sounds good. But was it mandated by God? There were prescribed methods of cleansing after someone had been made unclean in the Old Testament, but no example of the exact application the pharisees were insisting on was ever commanded by God. Their intent might have been self righteousness or religiosity, or it might have been as devout as wanting to be pure in God’s sight. But God did not command it. Going beyond what God has said is not being a super Christian – it is disobedience to God. He commands us in several Scriptures to not add or subtract from His word.
It might seem silly to us today that such a rule as ritual washing was ever made, but the same spirit behind those traditions is at work today in the body of Christ. Members of a church subscribe to certain beliefs that are based on traditions rather than God’s word. They might even be worthy traditions based on wise principles, but man-made, nonetheless. The danger is in judging others who do not participate in the same liturgy as another.
I personally did not feel led by God to participate in a certain ministry at a church I attended. Most other parents did. The persecution was real. If we are not careful, we can spin our wheels worrying about all of our traditions in the church while the unsaved all around us will perish, not wanting to get involved in our circus of religious confusion and traditions.
God has impressed upon me certain convictions that the Holy Spirit within me inspires me to follow. They are not blind leadings, but clear impressions from the LORD. The difference between tradition and conviction is relationship. But even convictions can become a stumbling block if we impose them on others or put them above God’s word. Following Christian fads is not our holiness – God is.
Lord, thank You for relating with us – sinful mankind – so that we might know You! Thank You for not having commands which are burdensome, but a light ad a guide to us. How amazing it is that you speak to us! Help us to recognize when we begin to idolize traditions and to walk in purity and genuine faith in You. I love You, LORD!