The Teaching of Ancestors

In a news item, snake-handling and the drinking of poison in connection with religious services were reportedly banned by the Tennessee Supreme Court. Liston Pack, a lay pastor of the Holiness Church of God in Jesus Name near Newport in eastern Tennessee, had been barred by a cou … More

Ritual

The Scribes and Pharisees joined forces and sent a delegation from Jerusalem to Galilee to investigate the ministry and teachings of Jesus and His disciples (v. 1). These religious leaders accused them of failing to observe the ceremonial washing of hands before eating (v. 2). This had nothing to do with cleanliness but was an elaborate washing ritual involving not only one’s hands but also cups, pitchers and kettles (Mark 7:3-4). This was a tradition of the Jewish elders that they had made the very foundation of their religious faith. We must beware of allowing religious customs and church rituals to take precedence over the clear Word of God. Just because something has been done in a certain way for a long time doesn’t mean it pleases God.

Our Lord’s reply to their charge was by asking them why they continued to break the direct command of God by failing to honor their father and mother (vv. 3-6). Exodus 20:12 taught a man to “honor” father and mother and yet they were using the “Corban” rule which was a very dishonorable thing.  Their practice of “Corban” was a means of escaping financial responsibilities. They would simply say that a particular item was a gift they had devoted to God and could not be used by an individual. This was simply a clever way of keeping things from passing to one’s parents. This person would of course continue to keep those things in his own house for his own use. Jesus said such action was hypocritical (vv.7-8). Their  religion had become merely a set of man-made rules and their worship was a farce (v. 9).

Tradition is something external, while God’s truth is internal. Unfortunately there are many “evangelical traditions” in churches today which are man-made teachings that are often considered as authoritative. God wants us to give Him our hearts and not just something we do outwardly.

Application

Do we tend to put more emphasis on tradition than on developing a personal relationship with Christ? What can we do to reverse this tendency?

Matthew 15:1-9 (English Standard Version)

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat." He answered them, "And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.' But you say, 'If anyone tells his father or his mother, "What you would have gained from me is given to God," he need not honor his father.' So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: "'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"

View this passage in NIV (Bible Gateway) »