(Matthew 15:2-3 KJV) Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders for they wash not their hands when they eat bread? And he answered and said unto them why do ye also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?
This scripture is not suggesting that traditions are wrong. Traditions can be very helpful in establishing one’s guidelines and disciplines for life. As a matter of fact some of our worthwhile traditions are reading our Bibles, praying and going to church.
In the case of our text, the washing of hands before eating was a very good tradition because it had to do with personal hygiene. However, when a good tradition such as this is perverted and made greater than God’s commandments, then Jesus will address it the way He did here.
It is fine for man to have traditions as long as they help him fulfill God’s purposes for his life which should in turn deepen his personal happiness. However, in many cases (such as in our text) the traditions that are supposed to help man actually put him in bondage.
When I put the word bondage and tradition in the same sentence I am reminded of one of my favorite movies called “Fiddler on the Roof.” This movie was about a very traditional Jewish family whose daughters grow up and choose the men they want to marry rather than those chosen by the matchmaker.
This of course stretched the father’s deep rooted Jewish tradition to the point of breaking...if he allowed it to go any further. As a result of such stretching he became willing to lose his daughter rather than accept her being married to one outside of their faith.
Even though “Fiddler on the Roof” was only a movie, it did cause me to pay more attention to those who are steeped in ethnic traditions and their struggles to keep them pure.
As a kid growing up in
East Texas I did not have
to face the ethnic traditions that Tevye (the father of the five daughters in “Fiddler
of the Roof”) faced. However, I did face the denominational traditions and struggles
that parents went through as their children chose and married outside of their
denomination. What I faced was obviously the traditions of man and this is what
Jesus was addressing.
The point is…one has to determine which traditions bring life and which bring bondage.
Help our guidelines for establishing right traditions to be based on the Word of God and not on human reason. Our desire is to be flexible as we grow in You and not be stiff and unchangeable as in the case of Tevye.