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The Danger of Manmade Traditions

The sharpest rebukes of Jesus during His earthly ministry were directed at the Pharisees.  One such censure is found in Mark 7.  (By the way, it surprises some to learn that Jesus rebuked anyone, especially in a markedly stern manner.  The mental picture that some have of Jesus is of a soft, effeminate weakling.  Such a picture is so far from the reality.  Mark 7 is evidence.)

Jesus (who was God on earth [Matt. 1:23] and could know man’s hearts [John 2:24-25]) looked at the Pharisees and called them “Hypocrites.”  He went on to explain why.  He first quoted from Isaiah as the basis for this charge: “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.  And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’” (Mark 7:6-7).  The efforts of the Pharisees were hypocritical (and in vain) because (1) their “heart” was not right with God (v. 6) and because (2) they substituted their own doctrines in place of the doctrines of God (v. 7).

Three times in this text Jesus charged the Pharisees with placing dangerous and sinful emphasis on their own “traditions.”  Look at the end of verse 8, “…you hold the tradition of men.”  Look at the end of verse 9, “…that you may keep your tradition.”  Then, look in the middle of verse 13, “…through your tradition which you have handed down.”  Their traditions involved the way they washed dishes (v. 8), their own manipulated care of their parents (v. 11-12), and “many such things” that caused them (in their eyes) to “appear beautiful outwardly” (Matt. 23:27).  Here’s the problem: They had taken these manmade doctrines and elevated them above and substituted them for the doctrine of God!

When an individual (or a church) places greater emphasis on their opinions, their personal beliefs, their handed-down traditions, their “we’ve always done it this way,” they fall prey to the same devil-set trap as the Pharisees.  Notice very carefully the natural, immediate and grave consequences of such actions.  Jesus told the Pharisees that they were “laying aside the commandment of God” (v. 8), “rejecting the commandment of God” (v. 9) and “making the word of God of no effect” (v. 13).  Basically, they were putting themselves (and their doctrines) in the place of God.

The Lord will not tolerate anything (or anyone) that challenges His authority, His holiness or His revealed will.  We must never add to or take from God’s Word (Rev. 22:18-19).  We must never go beyond what He says (1 Cor. 4:6), “to do less or more” (Num. 22:18).  We must never manipulate His Word to fit our desires (Gal. 1:6-9).  We must ever be faithful!