Matthew 15:1-9(KJV) 1Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,  2Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.  3But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?  4For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.  5But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;  6And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.  7Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,  8This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.  9But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

This past month I have been considering my core values or principles of ministry.  I must admit that this has been an excellent exercise and has reignited my passion for the ministry that the Lord has placed me in. One thing that has caught and fired my imagination is that while our heritage and tradition have a place of honor, they do not have a place of authority; we will not be handcuffed by them.

The argument above that Jesus lays out is started by the Pharisees.  They stood in judgement of the disciples concerning… of all things… not washing their hands before dinner. Jesus of course was having none of it!  The hypocrisy of these men gave Jesus an opportunity to teach all of us a lesson.  These men had elevated their own tradition to doctrinal status. Jesus answered their question with a question. He was blunt and bold and challenging and honest with these pretenders.  These false teachers were binding burdens upon God’s people that God was not pleased with.  They were abusing their authority.  They were high-minded and had replaced meekness with meanness.  In addition to all of this, the tradition that they so embraced enabled them to ignore the direct commands of God with a “clean” conscience.’

How does this apply to us today?

 For a moment, let’s consider leadership.  It was to the leaders Jesus was speaking.  Have you elevated tradition and heritage above God’s Word? Do you use Scripture out of context to excuse bad behavior? If someone challenges the tradition is it akin to challenging God himself?  Do you regularly add to the Word of God standards that you can’t back up with clear instruction from God’s Word? Do you demean other ministries as inferior to your own when they do things differently?  Does tradition give you authority that God hasn’t?  I have heard one too many times the verse taken out of context “I will not lay my hand on God’s anointed” as if the pastor were King Saul… sadly some of these pastors act like King Saul!  They wreak havoc among God’s people then demand respect that they have neither earned nor deserve.  They use tradition to excuse their behavior. Do you  think that the name on your sign has been there since Jesus time? There are some that think changing a name on a sign is sacrilege.  They have drawn comparisons of being a Baptist to being an American and how it may be bad but I’m still an American.  Well, there were some better men then us in the 1700’s that had enough of being called British. These men had seen what the crown was doing and the wrong that was being done and having attempted to work it out finally left the British Empire.  What do we call them today? Heroes.

Church members likewise must guard themselves against such delusions.  In many Churches the pastor is handcuffed by tradition and history limiting his effectiveness.  One or two families in many churches have run things behind the scenes for so long that to change something quite literally takes an act of God and in some cases even He is refused.  The pastor must walk on eggshells when proposing a new idea or ministry.  There are members of congregations that refuse to get on board if they didn’t think of it or if they weren’t included. We need to get past all of this and be true to the Book of Books!

Let us all take what admonishment we can from the Word of God. It isn’t supposed to be comfortable, it’s supposed to be challenging!

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