When Tradition Loses Value
Read Mark 7:1-13
Laws. We live our lives by them. From safety laws (do you wear your seatbelt?), to fashion laws (no wearing socks with sandals), we have more laws than you could shake a stick at. And not all of them make sense.
In certain parts of the United States, for instance, there are quite a few laws regarding church that don't seem worth the paper they’re written on. In Wheeler, Mississippi, young girls are not allowed to walk a tightrope, unless it’s in a church. In Idanha, Oregon, if you’re in a church, no eating unshelled peanuts. In Honey Creek, Iowa, no one is permitted to carry a slingshot to church, except a policeman. And in Leecreek, Arkansas, if you’re wearing anything red, you’re not even allowed in a church. Silly laws, I know. But laws that are still on the books. We tend to hang on to tradition – sometimes at the expense of what's right. And this is just what Jesus faced in today's reading.
At the beginning of Mark chapter 7, a few religious leaders were out to get Jesus, and were using a web of tradition to do it. We’re told of how ceremonial washing was of utmost importance, and these leaders were more than a little upset at Jesus for not stressing it. Jesus, the Holy One, whose only purpose was to clean up the stain of sin, and they accused Him of not caring about cleanliness? In verses 6 and 7, Jesus answered their concern.
Jesus replied, You hypocrites! Isaiah was prophesying about you when he said, These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away. Their worship is a farce, for they replace God's commands with their own man-made teachings. Mark 7:6, 7
Jesus called them “hypocrites,” a word used for an actor on the stage, one who was just playing a part. He was pretty blunt about their concerns for purity. Oh, they were going through a religious ritual, an outward cleansing, but all the while what really needed cleaning – their inward man – remained just out of reach.
Many good things in life, like tradition, can lose their value when pushed to an extreme.
When the customs, the rules, the letters of the law become more important than the Letter from the Creator, the traditions have lost their purpose.
Through His Word, God is very clear. To be made right with God, through the Cross of Jesus, and to live a powerful life led by His Holy Spirit… these are the main reasons to keep any old “traditions” around.
The old, old story is still up to date and relevant. Today, more than ever, it’s paramount that we leave it on our books.
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