Whenever I hear that word, “Tradition” I immediately think of the Jewish character, Tevye in the movie, “Fiddler on the Roof.” In his song, he said that “tradition gives us balance in life, and without traditions our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on a roof!”
This is the upside of traditions. They give us “balance” in life for they connect us to family and a way of life from the past. They also give us stability in the present and hope for the future.
But there is also a downside to traditions. In Mark chapter 7 we read about a confrontation that Jesus had with “the Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem” (7:1). They complained to Him that His disciples were not following “the tradition of the elders” (v. 5). Listen to His response (vv. 6-8).
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.
They worship in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men” (Isa.29:13).
You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.
As always, Jesus gets right to the heart of the issue. The Pharisees and teachers of the law were saying and doing the right thing but with the wrong attitude. That’s why He called them “hypocrites”. Outwardly they were saying and doing the right thing but inwardly their minds and hearts were in the wrong place.
And this is why we need to be careful with our “traditions”. We say all the right things in church (the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer for example) but do we truly mean what we say? We do all the right things (take Communion, attend Bible Study or Sunday School) but do we truly practice our faith? We talk about loving others, but do we really love? We talk about forgiving others, but do we really forgive? We talk about accepting others, but do we really accept?
Notice that Jesus is not telling us to give up or “let go” of the teachings (“commands”) of God. He still wants us to live right and worship Him in spirit and in truth (see John 4:23,24). Just as He told the Samaritan women at Jacob’s well, for He offers us “living water” (Jn. 4:10) that nourishes us and gives us life, “eternal life” (v. 13). We don’t have to live “right” on our own, but through the power of His Holy Spirit we can be righteous and follow the “traditions” God has set before us to give us balance in life and hope for the future. We just have to have our hearts in the right place. Amen.
Rich Pollock, Worship Committee Chair