Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. – Matthew 15.7-9
Jesus rarely openly condemned sinners. He corrected them, He encouraged them to forsake their sins, but He reserved condemnation for one group of sinner. For all ‘normal sinners’ He had only compassion, but for one group He had wrath.
The object of His wrath? It is the religious who used their religion to control others and profit themselves. Jesus truly hated the abuse of religion. The ones He is talking to hear had replaced the word of God with the traditions of men.
Why was this such a bad thing? Why was it the one thing that Jesus railed on?
I think it is simply because it puts man in the place of God. Man imposes his own rules and regulations on top of what God says. Man takes away or adds to the word of God at man’s whim and fancy. They worshipped God with their mouths, but their true worship was in vain because they worshipped their traditions.
Early in my Christian life there were plenty of man-made traditions expected from some of the groups I was associated with. Do this. Don’t do that. Go here. Don’t go there. Read this. Don’t read that. Listen to this. Don’t listen to that. While many of these things were well intentioned and maybe even based on Bible principles some of them were nothing more that man’s opinions and standards with no basis in scripture.
The lesson for us is clear. ‘What does the Bible say?’ is our only guide. We can’t be guided by views or opinions or traditions unless they are in line with the word of God.