The Deadliness of Tradition…

Matthew 15:1-9 (NIV) Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, “Honor your father and mother” and “Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.” But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ he is not to ‘honor his father’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'”

Jesus’ contemporaries sacrificed their parents for the sake of tradition.

In contrast, as I once heard Erwin McManus remark, we sacrifice our children on the altar of tradition.

6 thoughts on “The Deadliness of Tradition…

  1. By tradition, I take McManus to mean the extra-biblical practices of faith we have come to enjoy personally as our preferences. By mandating that these traditions not be lost, and refusing the institution of new practices/preferences, we turn away our very own children.

    As each generation comes to faith in Christ, it tends to ”carve out” it’s own manifestation of that faith and presentation of worship. The previous generation tends to dislike the ”new stuff,” almost always because of fear in their hearts and confusion over what is biblical and what is traditional, and rejects not just the ”manifestation” but the ”manifesters” of faith. Thus, they ”sacrifice their children on the altar of tradition”.

    As I recall, McManus’ point was that as the Spirit of God brings new wine, we who have enjoyed the old wine say, ”That new stuff is no good. Get rid of it” (Matthew 9, Mark2, and Luke 5). With or without realizing it, we have trampled on hearts. (I have the video of McManus saying this, laying around somewhere, if you’d like to see it. He’s an excellent speaker.)

    I’ve witnessed this many times in 20 years of ministry. It’s sad when the child (young man or woman) leaves his home church and the godly influences that may be there to go to another church. But it’s even more heart-wrenching when he or she leaves the church altogether.

    There are traditions I love and cling to, but I’ve made it my goal never to allow my own extra-biblical preferences outweigh my love for the next generation. As one who experienced having his heart stepped on as a young man, I promised God never to do it to the next generation.

  2. I am not sure I would say tradition kills. I value many traditions in my faith and in my family life. I would, however, say that tradition, when placed above what the Lord may want to do (as in the passage above), is deadly.

  3. That makes sense now. I agree with you, Steve. I think what happens is that godly people make up traditions as a way to give what they love (their faith) to people they love (their kids and grandkids), and hopefully those kids do the same. But eventually through the generations people either lose sight of what they loved in the tradition, or stop loving the people and start loving the tradition. And it becomes a horrible burden that neither we nor our fathers are able to bear.

    I think young godly people ought to be slow and careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater though. Just because all the hearts of the people who love a certain tradition or other have grown cold doesn’t mean that there’s not wisdom and maturity in the tradition to learn from.

  4. I agree. I’ve really appreciated the young people I’ve known who honor traditions for their intrinsic value and for the sake of showing love to the previous generation.

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