When you hear the word “tradition” what comes to mind? For some it reminds them of family activities or customs around holidays or special events. These can be very meaningful and positive experiences that people look forward to. For others tradition reminds them of boring rituals or meaningless routines that were not very meaningful or positive and that they don’t look forward to and would prefer to do without. We are all probably familiar with both kinds of tradition – positive ones and negative ones – and when we look at the Scriptures we find this same distinction as well.
Jesus speaks to this issue of “tradition” and its use or its practice numerous times in the Gospels. In Mark chapter 7, as Jesus confronts the Pharisees and religious leaders of the day about their man-made traditions, and the danger that this type of tradition can pose to our faith. Jesus’ is not against the practice of tradition, but He clearly condemns placing tradition above the commands of God. Jesus reminds us that what is most important to God is not the outward acts of religion, but the inward state of our heart. Tradition can be a blessing or a curse; it can be a stumbling block or an aid to our worship and obedience to God.
We must rely on God and His Word, not the religious traditions of man. As Christians we are not to be “anti-tradition” any more than we are to blindly follow traditions without evaluating their purpose and meaning in the light of God’s Word.
Tradition that reminds us of God’s truth and points us to Biblical principles is to be embraced; but tradition that is simply man-made and goes beyond or against the principles of Scripture should be rejected. One writer said, “Tradition is the living faith of those now dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of those still living.”
The point is that we should not just go through the motions of religious worship or service apart from a heart committed to God. Living faith comes from a heart of humility and dependence upon Jesus Christ. As Christians we need to be careful that we say and do is not just for the sake of appearance or obligation, but that it proceeds from a heart of faith and love for God through Jesus Christ. Jesus teaches us in Mark chapter 7 that our greatest priority is to examine what’s inside our hearts, so that our outward religious actions – our worship, our prayers, our service and our obedience – will match our inward spiritual reality: a heart committed to God and to His Word through faith in Christ. (PASTOR DENNIS BONE)