Matthew 15:1-8. (Contemporary English version) About this time some Pharisees and teachers of the Law of Moses came from Jerusalem. They asked Jesus, 2 “Why don’t your disciples obey what our ancestors taught us to do? They don’t even wash their hands before they eat.” 3 Jesus answered: Why do you disobey God and follow your own teaching? 4 Didn’t God command you to respect your father and mother? Didn’t he tell you to put to death all who curse their parents? 5 But you let people get by without helping their parents when they should. You let them say that what they have has been offered to God. 6 Is this any way to show respect to your parents? You ignore God’s commands in order to follow your own teaching. 7 And you are nothing but show-offs! Isaiah the prophet was right when he wrote that God had said,
The story and origin of Jewish Tradition
The word tradition, has occupied a most distinguished place, both in the Jewish and Christian Church. Man is ever fond of mending the work of his Maker; and hence he has been led to put his finishing hand even to Divine revelation! This supplementary matter has been called to deliver from hand to hand-to transmit; and hence the Latin term, tradition, from trado, to deliver, especially from one to another;-to hand down. In the Jewish TRADITION this is also called the oral law, which they distinguish from the written law: the latter contains the Mosaic precepts, as found in the Pentateuch: the former, the traditions of the elders, i.e. traditions, or doctrines, that had been successively handed down from Moses through every generation, but not committed to writing. The Jews feign that, when GOD gave Moses the written law, he gave him also the oral law, which is the interpretation of the former. This law, Moses at first delivered to Aaron then to his sons Eleazar and Ithamar; and, after these to the seventy-two elders, who with Moses and Aaron, delivered it again to all the heads of the people, and afterwards to the congregation at large. This then went on from generations to generations until the time of Jesus when it was compiled and digested it into the book which is called the MISHNA which further developed to the two Talmuds. called the Jerusalem and BabylyonishTalmuds. This Talmud was later printed and contains the whole of the traditions of the elders, and have so explained, or rather lay less emphasis on the word of God, which explains why Jesus said ‘Ye have made the word of no effect by your traditions’.
Colossian 2:8 –Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
Traditional believes vs Faith
One of such unwritten laws is the tradition of washing of hands, before and after meal; According to Adams Clerk in his commentary, the Jews laid great emphasis on this, they considered eating with unwashed hands to be no ordinary crime; and therefore, to induce men to do it, they feigned that an evil spirit, called Shibta who sits on the hands by night, has a right to sit on the food of him who eats without washing his hands, and make it hurtful to him! They consider the person who undervalues this rite to be no better than a heathen, and consequently excommunicate him. This they did with many other traditional beliefs by making it superstitious as a way of coaxing or manipulate people to observe the tradition or face the consequences. In the same way, most traditions that we observed and has become our culture similarly originated like that of the Jewish tradition. They came from believes mostly with good intentions to correct or impart some values into the culture or society and to ensure that people comply, those values are feigned and linked to certain consequences in the event of default. It is worth noting here that not all traditional believes are bad in a sense but when practice of such tradition becomes contrary to the word of God then it’s worth checking otherwise according to Jesus, it makes the word of God ineffective in our lives. For instance it took the intervention of Mary Slessor a Scottish Missionary living in the then eastern part of Nigeria to stop the Killing of twins because the people were of the belief that the father of one of the twin must be an evil spirit and since they are not able to determine which is the evil reincarnate, they abandoned them in the bush to starve to death. You see that this tradition opposes the word of God that says Children are the heritage of the Lord, killing is against the commandments of the law and of Love.
I have come to realize also that so many Christians are still tied and held down in bondage because of the tradition and culture. Like the Pharisees who are religious leaders of those days, many Christians today have equally formed traditions from some religious beliefs. Christianity is not meant to be a religion but a relationship with God and our lives are supposed to be lived daily by faith in the word of God and not in the observance rules and religious rites that are contrary to what God is saying now. Religion is a bondage that is denying most Christians from exercising their authority and liberty in Christ. Equally presenting Christianity to the unsaved on the platform of religion is what has left many without Christ today. We need to change the way we perceive and peddle our faith and stop propagating the gospel as a religion filled with series of rules of dos and don’ts.
Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
It is for this reason that Paul wrote to the Romans and Galatians about their religious inclinations that are contrary to God. Holding on to for instance to religious beliefs that emanates from the old Jewish culture and laws of Moses in old testaments and making that a doctrine is counter productive in this age and will not allow us as Christians to fully appropriate the victory we have in Christ Jesus. I see some Christians today held under the bondage if the tradition of tithing, not because they love God but because of the fear of the curse as stated in Malachi 3:8-10. If you mirror this with the word of God Galatians 3:13 that says Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law then it becomes contradictory.
Tithing is good and it’s a show of our love and submission to God and should not be done because of fear or tradition which then becomes a wrong motive and deprive one of the blessings that comes from tithing. As a Christian, I tithe and give to the work of God regularly and bountifully because of my understanding of the covenant of blessing and my love and submission to God to have rule over my finances and my entire affair as a matter of fact. I am no longer under the law but I operate under a superior law called the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I invite you this month to share in this liberty, we have been set free from the laws and traditions of men, we have been called into liberty of the sons of God through the blood of Jesus Christ and who the son sets free is free indeed. Do not entangle yourself again in the yoke of tradition and culture, this is bondage and will not allow you to fully express yourself in God and enjoy the victory you have in Christ. You are the redeemed of the lord so stay free and be victorious.
For further Study
Questions for you to reflect on
- How conscious are you of the contradiction between your culture and bible principles?
- What are you doing about it?
I am a culturally savvy Christian and I build bridges between the world and the kingdom of God.