The scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus asking why the disciples did not observe the tradition of the elders regarding the washing of their hands before eating. Jesus used the opportunity to teach about the traditions of men versus the word of god.
The scribes and Pharisees had many traditions of men, many of which opposed the word of God. In this section we see Jesus describe one of those. The word of God says to honour your father and mother, but the Pharisee’s tradition allowed a person to ignore their father and mother if what they would have done for them was given to God instead. So for the sake of their tradition they made void the word of God. They were clearly wrong as Jesus stated, and in the case of eating with unwashed hands they were wrong too, but we will see that in the next post.
Today the church has many traditions, some of which are good and some not so good. We still have traditions in the church today that make void the word of God. One that occurs every year at Easter is the tradition of not eating red meat on Good Friday at Easter. This is supposed to be out of respect for Christ who gave up his flesh on Good Friday. So what people typically do is eat fish on Good Friday. But nowhere in the bible does it say we are to forgo eating meat on the Friday before the Passover, which is when Jesus was put to death. This practice is a human tradition of the church. They will and do eat prawns, shrimp, clams, scallops, mussels, oysters, shark and other seafood rather than red meat. And yet the food laws in the Old Testament clearly state we should eat nothing from the sea that does not have fins and scales. These other forms of seafood do not have fins and scales and so under the food laws are prohibited foods. So for the sake of the church tradition they allow people to break the food laws that were given by God to the people.
The reason God gave the food laws was for our benefit and protection. All of the prohibited foods we know today have some kind of issue. Shellfish are high in cholesterol, oysters in particular are a high cause of food poisoning, shark can be high in heavy metals because it is a scavenger, and so on. Of the meats, pork is also a high bacterial content food and often at the root of salmonella outbreaks. While we are not under the law in the Christian covenant, it does not make sense to ignore the wisdom of God where he has given us instruction for our benefit.
There are other traditions that were delivered to the church that are good and should be followed. Examples are the breaking of bread, anointing with oil, baptism and the laying on of hands. These traditions form part of the way we worship under the New Covenant and are to be practiced and protected. But any tradition that changes or opposes the word of God are to be avoided and removed.
There are many traditions in the church and we must take care to consider when the traditions of men versus the word of God. Such traditions that make void the word of God destroy our worship. When the tradition becomes more important than the word of God, the tradition must go. As Jesus said, quoting Isaiah, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.” (Matthew 15:8-9)
Many traditions that have infiltrated the church today have their roots in pagan and non-Christian religions. Examples are many of the traditions of Christmas and Easter. There is no evidence in the bible for the giving of Easter eggs or setting up Christmas trees. However these practices do have roots in pagan teachings. And yet these traditions have infiltrated the church as though they were meant to suggest some form of worship of Christ. Even the dates of these two supposed Christian events are incorrect (although every so often the date for Easter does align with the Passover).
These traditions take people away from God. They destroy the worship of God when the church rules the tradition to be more important than following the teachings of Jesus Christ. Our challenge is to identify the traditions in our own church and our own life and question whether they are affecting our worship of God. If the tradition is not backed up by scripture then it needs to be tested to see if it is opposed to God in some way, and if so removed.