Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition… Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. – Mark 7.7-9, 13
Every time I read this word the first though that comes to mind is the song ‘Tradition’ from Fiddler on the Roof. We are all familiar with traditions and we all have traditions that we honour and seek to preserve. Traditions can be good. They give a sense of security and continuity and comfort and familiarity.
But, traditions used the wrong way can be destructive. Sometimes man’s traditions can not only supplement the word of God but they can begin to supplant it. These Jewish leaders had developed a whole set of traditions They had taken things that had a basis in the Law, but which corrupted it and added man’s regulations to it. Jesus said that they had ‘made the word of God of none effect’ by adding man’s rules to it.
The same thing happens today. Churches can start out by faithfully applying Bible principles to modern situations, but then those things can become set in concrete rules that have nothing to do with the Bible. Those traditions can become so entrenched that they take the place of the word of God. Conforming to the traditions can become more important than obeying the word of God. Just like in Jesus’ day these traditions supplant the Bible as our authority and guide.
Adding to God’s word is just as wrong whether it is purposeful false teaching or well-intended traditions. ‘What does God say?’ ought to be our cry.