Tag Archives: Rituals

Tradition often leads to hypocrisy

Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat. He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?

 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone. (Mt. 15:1-20)

Tradition often leads to hypocrisy and legalism. This was the problem the Pharisees of Jesus’ day had. This can happen to anyone. Traditions become meaningless without an awareness of their origin and purpose. This was the reason the Old Testament instructed the Israelites to explain the reasons behind their practices, like festivals, sacrifices and so on, to their children.  

Tradition is outwardly
It focuses on the external appearance and performance. Obeying God is always above observing traditions. Pharisees tried to escape from obeying the Law by observing traditions, so they created traditions of convenience. They gave an impression that their external performances were the signs of faithfully keeping the Law. Jesus confronted the Pharisees who questioned him on this.

Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents. And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. (Mt.15: 3-6 NLT)

Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 29:13) who foretold about the hypocritical attitude of people.

Obedience is inwardly
It springs from the submissive attitude within. It demands commitment, and being faithful to it. It is always above traditions and rituals. It is to please God than men. In 1 Samuel 15:22 we read prophet Samuel’s reminder to king Saul. Obedience originates from trust. Without faith or trust it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6).

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Doing or Believing?

 Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.” (Mt.9:14-17 ESV)

Religious people will continue to focus on their ‘doing’ in order to get into the kingdom of God. This is the old and unsuccessful way. Jesus changed the old and opened a new way. Now if you try to combine the two, it will be like patching up and old fabric with a piece of new fabric, or like storing new wine in an old wineskin. Result is disastrous.

Fasting was a sign of sorrow and grief which accompanied the wearing of sack cloth and sitting in ashes etc. Fasting as a ritual is practiced by the religious. It is characteristic of the dispensation of Law. As per the words of Jesus it will be characteristic of the Church age because the bridegroom Jesus Christ will be gone for awhile. While He was with the disciples on the earth they had no need to be grieved or sorrowful. The world will hate them as it hated the Lord Jesus Christ. But He has promised to return for His bride the Church, to take her with Him.  Once again, from that point, the need for fasting will be absolutely gone.

Traditions versus Rituals

The LORD’s people left Egypt exactly four hundred thirty years after they had arrived. On that night the LORD kept watch for them, and on this same night each year Israel will always keep watch in honor of the LORD. (Exo.12:41-42 CEV)

The Lord God brought the people of Israel out from their bondage in Egypt. The children of Jacob had now become a nation of over a million people. (600,000 men according to Exo.12:37. There could have been an equal number of women and children. Exo.12:38 includes “many others”.) It was an ocean of people and cattle! Leading them out of the city of Rameses was not a joke. But the Bible tells us in Exo.12:42 that God kept watch over them the night they left. We also see in the next chapter that the Lord covered them with clouds during the day and fire during nights and protected them.

Biblical Traditions

In order to remind them of what He had done for them the Lord commanded them to observe that day each year as the Passover feast. He gave them detailed instructions as to how they should and how they should not observe it.  The Lord also instructed them that as they observe this feast they should explain to their children the reason behind it. Thus it became a rich and meaningful tradition which  reminded the people of the great deliverance their forefathers experienced and honored God.

They also kept another tradition of keeping a night watch on that night each year and the Bible tells us that they did it to “honor the Lord” (12:42). Biblical traditions are followed by churches with this intention, to remind people of the faithfulness of God and to consciously honor Him for His glorious deeds.

Religious Rituals

Traditions that are not rooted in the Word of God and do not honor God are just rituals that satisfy our human yearning and guilt. They are observed without convincing reasons or valuable purposes. They often honor people rather than God. They drag you away from the real worship of the true God and lead you into hypocrisy and idolatry.

Good traditions are meant to honor God for what He has done in our lives. Do we honor God through our traditions or simply follow rituals for mental satisfaction?