When Traditions Oppose God’s Will


    Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples transgress against the traditions of the elders?  For they don’t wash their hands before they eat!”  Jesus replied, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?  For God commanded you saying, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘he who curses his father or mother, let him be put to death.’  But you say that if a man says to his father or mother ‘Whatever financial support you might have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ thus he doesn’t need to ‘honor his father or mother’ with it.  Therefore you nullify God’s commandment for the sake of your tradition.  You hypocrites!  Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you saying:  “‘These people draw near to me with their mouths and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men’” (Mathew 15: 1-9.)


    Over the course of many centuries, the Jewish people began to elevate their own traditions above the commandments of God.  One tradition in particular required individuals to ritualistically purify their hands before eating a meal.  The religious leaders condemned the Lord and His disciples for not observing this custom.  In response, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for permitting one of their traditions to nullify God’s fifth commandment (“honor thy father and thy mother.”)  This tradition, known as ‘Corban,’ made it acceptable to commit any or all of one’s wealth to God (and to the temple treasury.)  In turn, any money needed to care for or aide ailing parents or loved ones became null and void.  God did not create this tradition of ‘Corban,’ for if He had, He would have clearly outlined it in scripture.  Jesus Christ does not honor the traditions of men; instead, He and his followers obey the laws and commandments of God.

    Today there is no doubt that the Amish people possess a zeal for God.  And yet, at some point, the Amish community contracted a serious case of ‘rigid traditionalism.’  They became obsessed with rituals not outlined in scripture; making it very difficult for them to effectively evangelize to anyone other than their own children (evangelism is a requirement of every believer; Jesus said “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”  The ‘old order’ Amish have made their customs a requirement for Church membership.  New members must become farmers.  Automobiles, radios, and televisions are prohibited; bicycles and wrist watches are forbidden; photographs are outlawed as well; married men must grow beards and telephones can only be used outside of the home for business purposes, etc. What began as a desire to avoid conforming to the evils of society, has made it very difficult for them to reach the lost. (Note:  Not all Amish traditions are wrong; many do have their genesis in scripture:  modest dress, pacifism, and the sanctity of marriage, to name a few.)

    Today, there are a countless number of Christian denominations, and non-essential doctrines have caused numerous divisions.  Many traditions have been placed above the laws of God.  Potential believers in Christ are viewed as potential believers in a particular church.  However, the Father has a single set of standards. He has laid out what pleases Him in a book (the Holy Bible.)  Any requirements of a church not founded upon God’s word are the rules of men; such rules can serve to confuse, divide, and neutralize the people of God.  (Note:  Does this mean churches that have non-biblical traditions are evil?  No.  All churches contain a measure of ‘traditionalism.’  However, we must never allow non-scriptural traditions to gain power and prominence over the Lord’s commandments.)

“Lord Heavenly Father, help us to avoid becoming victims of ‘traditionalism.’  May we always honor Your commandments above man-made practices.  Help us to find common ground with all those who believe.  Give us the strength to live by Your word; may we know each precept and every teaching; may Your words never be replaced by our own understanding.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You; and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you!

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