Daily Word

Tradition trumps Command | Matthew 15:1-9

1 Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law now arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They asked him, 2 “Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.”

3 Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? 4 For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’[ a ] and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’[ b ] 5 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.’ 6 In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents.[ c ] And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,

8 ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.

9 Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’[ d ]”

Matthew 15:1-9 (NLT)

All the way to complain

Can you believe it? Some religious leaders (Pharisees) came all the way from Jerusalem to see Jesus. This was official business, a delegation from the center of Jewish culture and religion. That would be an honor under normal circumstances. But no, why did they come? They came all the way to confront Jesus. So it must be a grievous sin that Jesus or His disciples are committing then, right? No. His disciples were not consistently washing their hands before eating. Pretty low on the list of rules for holy living.

Tradition trumps Command

This wasn’t even a commandment of God but rather, their own traditions! On top of that, “The matter in question had nothing to do with good hygiene. The religious officials were offended that the disciples did not observe the rigid, extensive rituals for washing before meals.” (enduringword.com)

Don’t get it wrong. Tradition is not bad. But when tradition becomes meaningless ritual or replaces the command and its intent, it’s wrong. To them it was a grievous sin to eat without washing their hands but, breaking the commandment to honor father and mother found in the 10 commandments (Exodus 20:12) was excused. Hearts need to be evaluated as well as the tradition. Has the heart become cold toward the Lord? Has a tradition supplanted a command and its intent?


  • Lest we be too quick to judge, we should evaluate our own traditions – personally, culturally, in church – to see if they line up with Scripture. Why do we take an offering during church service? Why does the preacher stand and we sit? Is it necessary to bow our heads, close our eyes and clasp our hands when we pray? How about tithing – why 10%? You get the idea.
  • Of course the goal of any reflection is to check our hearts – are we close or far from God? Have we gotten to a point of honoring God with our speech only?
Ten commandments. Image from awesomechurch.com *

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