Mark 7:13 (NKJV)
“making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.”
The 1971 Broadway musical production of the Fiddler on the Roof –
“A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof, trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn’t easy. You may ask, why do we stay up there if it’s so dangerous? We stay because Anatevka is our home… And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word… Tradition.”
“Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years. Here in Anatevka we have traditions for everything… how to eat, how to sleep, even, how to wear clothes. For instance, we always keep our heads covered and always wear a little prayer shawl…This shows our constant devotion to God. You may ask, how did this tradition start? I’ll tell you – I don’t know. But it’s a tradition… Because of our traditions, everyone knows who he is and what God expects him to do.”
The oxford dictionary describes tradition as a belief, a custom or a way of doing something. Traditions are generally passed down from generation to generation. In Jack Deere’s book “Surprised by the Power of The Spirit of Tradition we see that not all traditions are bad:
“All Christians are at once beneficiaries and victims of tradition, beneficiaries who receive nurturing truth and wisdom from God’s faithfulness in past generations; victims, who now take for granted things that need to be questioned, thus treating as divine absolutes patterns of belief and behaviour that should be seen as human, provisional, and relative. We are all beneficiaries of good, wise, and sound tradition and victims of poor, unwise, and unsound traditions.”
Some family traditions surrounding get togethers and traditional family meals are good and worth keeping. While some traditions or rituals such as the way we act or the way we dress can easily become a stumbling block and an idol in our lives and can cause us to “short change” God, on the worship that should be in “Spirit & in Truth”
1.The Problem of man’s tradition
The word tradition in Mark 7 in Greek is “paradosis” which means to give over or hand down. When the pharisees were talking about the tradition of the Elders, they were referring to the teachings of the Elders that was passed down through generations and this is what they upheld.
And they were critical of the disciples not following tradition. We must understand that this was not an issue of hygiene, but rather of tradition.
Vs 3 tells us: For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders.
The Pharisees had created a system which had a total of 613 laws, these laws saw to it that the Pharisees did not practice what was required of them. They did not keep the law of God, but rather the law of man.
Joseph Stowell (Fan the Flame) gives us ten results of obeying the law of man rather than God:
(1) New laws continually need to be invented for new situations.
(2) Accountability to God is replaced by accountability to men.
(3) It reduces a person’s ability to personally discern.
(4) It creates a judgmental spirit.
(5) The Pharisees confused personal preferences with divine law.
(6) It produces inconsistencies.
(7) It created a false standard of righteousness.
(8) It became a burden to the Jews.
(9) It was strictly external.
(10) It was rejected by Christ.
2 Thessalonians 2:15 (GW)
Then, brothers and sisters, firmly hold on to the traditions we taught you either when we spoke to you or in our letter.
Teachings and traditions handed down by inspired men of God and lines up with the word of God need to be kept. But where man’s interpretations and dogma come in, we end up doing what is not pleasing to God, and what can become the idol of tradition.
In a country where we have diverse traditions and cultures, we need to be careful that we do not allow these man-made traditions and rules to affect our worship unto God. When we become born again, spirit filled, sons & daughters of God, our identity should be found in Christ. We should no longer desire to live by the traditions of man (flesh) but rather that of God.
2.The Danger of Man’s Tradition
When we follow man made traditions and rituals, it takes us away from where we should be in God. It also effects our worship unto God. Tradition brings an emptiness in worship. It eliminates the power true worship has. It’s a form of worship. Man-made tradition brings out what 2 Timothy 3:5 talks about – having a form of godliness but denying its power. And Paul tells Timothy, from such things turn away.
Jesus gives us some dangers of allowing the tradition of man to creep into our worship:
a) Hypocritical Worship
Mark 7:6 (NIV)
6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips,but their hearts are far from me.
Man made traditions become a ritual, they have no biblical foundation. When Jesus says it is written, he is directly taking it from the word of God, not from same made up tradition. That should be the way we live our lives, the way we worship God, the way God expects us to, not the way mans says we should.
Tradition can cause us to become hypocritical. Used fifteen times by Jesus in the gospels, Jesus called the pharisees hypocrites, he was referring to them being “actors on a stage”. They were pretending to be someone else, living the life of a double agent.
The Pharisees we see were more concerned about observing tradition and outward appearance than they were about the attitude of the heart.
We can play the same hypocritical role in our lives. We come to church, sing songs of worship and praise, pray, read our bibles – yet it is a façade, an elaborate act that we are putting on. Like actors we have different masks, one for church, one for home, one for work. It is very easy to go through the motions and put on a pretence.
The song Believe, by Hillsong Worship sums this up aptly –
I said on Sunday how much I want revival, but then on Monday I can’t even find my bible. Where’s power, the power of the cross in my life?
b) Vain Worship
Mark 7:7 (NIV)
They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules
Worship can impress man, but it can be worthless to God, without power.
Colossians 2:18 (NIV)
18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind.
Worship can become just a ritual, it becomes about what we feel, our emotions. Jesus tells us that the Pharisees worship was vain, meaning it had no value, it was worthless, useless and empty. All they were focused on was teaching man made traditions and rituals, rather than on the word of God.
What about us as the church today, is it all about putting up a front, a show for our family, friends, or even our pastor. Maybe we go to church just to mark ourselves present and go through the motions of just being there, or just maybe we profess to love God with all our hearts, but deep inside we are living in sin.
You see, all of these can just become activities, rituals and our hearts are far from God. This is the spirit of religiosity. Religiosity is not based on faith but rather founded on behaviour and a pattern. It’s based on compulsion and repetition. After each action there is a moment of calmness and ease, after which the compulsion returns on again, our feelings and emotions surge again.
Unless we make it about Jesus, and his word, and what he requires of us, our worship can be summed up as that of the Pharisees, “in vain”.
c) Voiding the word of God
Mark 7:9 (NKJV)
He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.”
The commandments taught that one should honour their mother and father, but the elder’s tradition and teachings was that giving to God, meant that you were not obligated to honor your parents. Making this command of God of no effect.
A simple example of mans tradition that we see in our world today, is that of infant baptism or baptism by sprinkling of water, it takes away the command of God, for baptism by immersion in water. We take mans tradition over the commandment of God, and in doing so we reject the word of God.
God’s word should be our only source of guidance when it comes to how we live our lives, how we worship him and serve him. There is no sitting on the fence with God’s word. The authority and power of the word of God should dictate the way we live.
Matthew 5:18 (NIV)
For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
When we are put in a situation of tradition vs God’s word, tradition should always take a back seat to the word of God.
The way we serve God, the way we worship God and live our lives should be based upon the written word of God, and not man’s interpretations. We should always go back to the word of God.
Ultimately, we should strive to be obedient to Gods word. I want to leave you with two scriptures today that sums up the way we should live our lives and worship God.
1 Samuel 15:22 (NIV)
But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
Colossians 2:8 (NIV)
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.
Feel free to comment or share a testimony.