In this chapter, Pharisees (or teachers of the law) challenge Jesus regarding his disciples and their non-adherence to long-standing church tradition. In this instance, the disciples fail to wash their hands before eating (come on fishermen, learn some hand-hygiene!). While as a nurse I must agree with these church leaders in advocating handwashing–Jesus’ response is just as critical.
The teachers of the law challenge Jesus for not following tradition, Jesus rebuts with a question: “Why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3). Jesus then gives an instance where the Pharisees bend rules of scripture for the sake of their traditions and quotes Isaiah saying, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules” (Isaiah 29:13).
When you suck at bowling as I do, bumpers become very necessary. They are walls that bump us back on course when we slip or start heading in the wrong direction. Yet, if you rely too heavily on them, you end up off course. Your ball ricochets back and forth between unforgiving metal walls, spinning out of control and forgetting what its destination was in the first place. If your bumpers are broken and crooked, even if you use them correctly–you end up on the other side of the bowling alley instead of knocking down your pins.
Traditions are so valuable. Like bumpers–they are guidelines that help us create healthy habits and build a community that supports each other and builds each other up. Yet, if we rely too heavily on the traditions that set up our religious institutions, we can forget the truth of scripture and the actual words of God. We get off course by seeking affirmation for following human rules. We must be careful not to follow blindly into something simply because it has been done before–but seek wisdom and understanding in the truth of scripture.
What traditions or habits have you found helpful as you seek Jesus in your personal faith?
What traditions have you seen that “bump you the wrong way?” and what does the Bible say about it?
When have you changed your tradition (or way of thinking) after it bumped up against Scripture?
By Ellie Heethuis | Byron Center, MI