Do We Ever Place Our Traditions Over God’s Commands?
Jesus condemns those who supersede the Word of God with their religious practices
Jesus asks the people, “Why do you break the command of God for the sake of your traditions?” (Matthew 15:3). He goes on to give an example that is culturally relevant to his audience, but which doesn’t connect so much with us today.
Of course we would never do such a thing, would we? Sadly, we too place traditions over God’s commands. Consider these examples:
Vain Repetition: Jesus tells the people to not pray using vain repetition (Matthew 6:7), yet in church growing up we did this every Sunday, repeating a prayer from rote memory, as well as the Ten Commandments and often a creed. Yet he commands us to avoid vain repetition. Other translations say “meaningless repetition” and “babbling many words.” The Bible says to not do that, but we do.
Do Not Call Anyone Father: Jesus specifically teaches us not to call anyone Father (Rabbi or Teacher) because only God is our Father. The principle seems to be against elevating our spiritual leaders with titles, perhaps suggesting we should avoid “Pastor,” “Reverend,” and “Doctor,” as well as “Father” and “Rabbi.” Yet we do this (sometimes at the insistence of our spiritual leaders), and some traditions specifically use Father, but Jesus says not to (Matthew 23:8-10).Jesus tells us to give anonymously, to not call attention to our charitable giving. Click To Tweet
Give in Secret: Jesus tells us to give anonymously (Matthew 6:3-4), to not call attention to our charitable giving. Yet our Sunday offerings are a public event and certainly not done secretly. Yet our tradition trumps God’s command.
Seek Man’s Approval: Though it’s not a direct command, Paul condemns those who try to win the approval of people. Instead we should follow his example of trying to please God (Galatians 1:10). Yet how often do ministers water down sermons in order to avoid human offense, which might cause parishioners to get mad, cause a stink, or withhold their donations?
These are a few ways we put our own preferences above what the Bible says. I’m sure there are many more. Be on the lookout for them, and then seek to do things God’s way, regardless of tradition.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.