Matthew 15:1-9…Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And 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. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
It’s really easy to mistake preferences for doctrine, tradition for Biblical mandates. We all fall into it, wether we are conservative or progressive Christians. We go to church every week, same time, same place, same seats. We basically sing the same two dozen songs. We follow the same order of service. Our internal alarms start wailing whenever something different happens. Danger! Something new! Something different! And if it doesn’t fit our particular STYLE, we can fall into the same trap the Pharisees did. Condemn what we don’t understand, failing to hear the wooing, failing to see the moving of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus challenged the Status Quo. I would dare say He would be ridiculed in many of our churches today. He would be loud, abrasive, confrontational, and full of laughter and joy in a way some would think inappropriate. Why do I say that? I read the Gospels. And I try to read them for what they say, not what I want them to say.
The Pharisees condemned Jesus’ disciples for not holding to a TRADITION. We can do the same when we condemn or ridicule another because their style doesn’t match ours. Maybe you wear a suit and tie to church. Maybe you wear bluejeans and a t-shirt. Maybe your church has a piano. Maybe it has a full orchestra. Maybe its a four piece rock band with Drums, Bass, Synthesizer and Electric Guitar. Perhaps your church doesn’t use the same translation mine does. All of these are TRADITIONS. Remember, the Progressive has traditions just like the conservative, they are usually just younger traditions. Romans 14 calls out both the Conservative (vegetarian) and the Progressive (Meat eater). The carnivore is not supposed to make fun of the veggie and the veggie is not supposed to condemn the meat eater.
Romans 14:1-4…Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him. Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
Jesus is telling us in Matthew 15 that we need to get back to matters of the heart, and quit focusing so much on the outside. Over the last few months several mega church pastors have had to resign their posts. Some from conservative churches, some from progressive churches. In each case it was due to private sin. For these men, who need our prayers, the pressure of being”on” all the time got to be just too much. And they were “on” in many cases because traditions, old and new, created unrealistic expectations of them, just like the traditions of the Pharisees. When a man cannot live up to outside expectations, he is dangerously close to a hard fall.
It doesn’t matter what our tradition is, if it becomes more important than what Jesus said (Or worse, is used as a cloak to hide private sin) then its time to kill the sacred cow and return to a focus on individual accountability, individual spirituality, individual responsibility. And quit pointing fingers at others, but point our own fingers at our own hearts.
Don’t honor God with your lips if your heart is far from Him. That is the surest path to Pharisaism.