Mar 7:3-5 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, (4) and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) (5) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”
Traditions. There is nothing bad about that word in itself. I hope that you enjoy various traditions – perhaps some in connection with the holidays, decorating your Christmas tree, baking Christmas cookies with your children, and so on. These are good things and they create lasting and pleasant memories.
But tradition in the religious realm can easily go askew and even become dangerous. How? When traditions replace God’s Word and are disguised as God’s Word, then you have a false gospel which can only damn people. And that is what had happened with the Jewish Pharisees. You see it here once more:
Mar 7:13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
These kind of traditions make void the Word of God. They replace the Word of God and claim to be the Word of God…but they aren’t. They are a creation of sinful man designed to circumvent the true gospel of Jesus Christ and permit sinners to boast about their “good works.”
Now, just as these tradition practitioners accused Jesus, so it is today very often in the visible church. Traditions are created by man, put off onto the people as God’s Word, and enforced by fear of punishment. That is what happened to so many of you when some fellow Christian/Pharisee, or pastor, or church board laid tradition on you and claimed that it was God’s law which must be obeyed.
Now, I do not want to promote lawlessness here. I just read an article that said a poll of employers revealed that Gen Z employees are the most difficult to manage. They frequently challenge the employer, they are undisciplined (ie, lazy), they do not have a good work ethic, and they often really don’t have good job skills or knowledge to do their job (though they put themselves off as some divinely sent job candidate on their resume). We see this same thing in the true church. This horrid attitude of entitlement, non-accountability, ignorance of God’s Word, a “free agent” attitude toward commitment to the body of Christ, and so on. This is repugnant to the Lord and it is just plain sin. It is a refusal to love God and to love one another.
[NOTE: Those of you who cannot find a healthy, genuine church or who, in some cases, have been so wrongly treated that going into a church building is just not feasible right now, have found our online outreach to be a very good and safe way to still connect with the body of Christ. You are a great encouragement to us and I know that this “Gen Z” attitude I am writing about here is not the reason you are not in a physical, local brick and mortar church building. I may not have stated this very well, but I just wanted to be sure you know how much we appreciate you].
But back to this matter of tradition masquerading as God’s Word.
Traditions in a local church are not all wrong. Even the particular order of service on Sunday morning is a kind of tradition. I mean, just think of the chaos that would result if everything were different every single Sunday! (Aren’t some churches like that?) Some churches include in their service a passing of the offering plate, while others simply have a box for offerings at the back of the sanctuary. We have a Christmas Eve evening service and a Good Friday service. Those are traditions. And they are good things.
But as soon as any tradition is elevated to the commandment of God, you enter into the world of the Pharisee. Then these traditions actually replace God’s Word. This very same thing can happen if God’s commandments are wrongly taught and applied. The Lord commanded the Israelites to offer certain sacrifices. It was God’s own Word. BUT:
Isa 1:11 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.
What had happened? The things commanded by the Lord were made into the end itself. Their real meaning and the true heart-attitude of the worshippers were set aside. They became rote and divorced from what they were truly designed to be.
Traditional Christianity, isn’t. It isn’t the gospel. It isn’t God’s Word. Why? Because the traditions replace God’s Word. And whenever this happens, people are not set free from sin by the gospel, they are placed into bondage and slavery where condemnation reigns.
Mat 12:7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.