#Article (Archive)

When human traditions get in the way

Mar 9, 2016, 11:03 AM | Article By: Galandou Gorre-Ndiaye

“Thus you nullify the Word of God for the sake of your tradition.” (Matthew 15:6)

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1 Peter 1:18-19)

Ever heard people say ‘God helps those who help themselves’? Most people who are not grounded in the Bible would swallow that as a biblical quote. Don’t! If you can help yourself then you do not need God. It means that you can solve your problems all on your own; that you have strength enough to combat evil, to fend for yourself and to vanquish sin and death. God demands all the glory and he underlines “I will not yield my glory to another.” (Isaiah 48:11)

Self-effort presupposes you can live life to the fullest without God’s help. When you are completely down and out; when you have no more strength to stand on your two feet; when you panic before a hopeless and helpless situation then turn the matter over to Jesus, he will step in. Do not wait for the devil to floor you, call upon Jesus and he will come and fight for you. In this way victory is assured.

Throughout the ages, humankind has introduced traditions as an appendage to the work of God. It is as if we are bent on aiding God’s work because there was a weakness somewhere that needed strengthening. Tradition is a way of life or practice human beings have introduced as an extension to the realisation of God’s work or plan. The Pharisees were adept at that; they stretched the Ten Commandments to 360 other minor commandments that merely watered them down. The Lord Jesus challenged them; “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:4-5) The argument started when Jesus’ disciples did not wash their hands before eating. The charge was “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?” So they got into trouble for not washing their hands before eating. Notice also that the disciples were breaking ‘the tradition of the elders,’ not God’s laws.

Traditions tend to overshadow the actual command or regulation given by God. Not until human beings add their ‘little salt’ to God’s laws will their ego be satisfied. In some instances, traditions have replaced the original instruction God had given. You ask why? That is what the people hear and will cling to. Most people hardly read the Word of God; they are happy to listen to what they are told it says. The Jews in Berea on the other hand behaved differently. They took notes as apostle Paul preached, to check the references afterwards. (Acts 17:11) By doing so, they avoided falling into the tradition ditch. Lazy Christians who do not read the Bible are quick to quote what the street scholars tell them.

Tradition has it that Jesus was poor, so his disciples should toe that line. Correction! Our God owns the universe and all that is in it. How can Jesus be poor as his Son? You will recall that at his birth the wise men from the east presented him with gifts - one of which was gold (Sure it was not just an ounce). Furthermore, if Jesus was poor, the Roman soldiers at the foot of the cross would not have cast lots over his clothes.

The danger about traditions is that they look very much like the original copy and except you look very closely you can be fooled. By the time you realise it, you would have boarded the wrong train. Traditions are a common feature even in our world today and multiple even in a given ethnic group. The only traditions that we should hold on to are the traditions laid down by Christ, the head of the church, that is, partaking of the holy sacrament (breaking bread) as often until he returns, and worshipping on Sunday (the resurrection day) as practised by the apostles.

First century Christians were known for their hospitality (the parable of the Good Samaritan portrays this.) In this regard our Lord Jesus asked his audience to follow the example of the Good Samaritan. “Go and do likewise!”

Be careful of the ‘additives’ people, churches and religious groups graft or have added for the pleasure of men. Paul warned Colossian Christians; “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy which depends on human tradition and basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8) He is saying our traditions must be Christ-based and Christ-centred because we are under the new covenant. Our faith and our beliefs are fertile ground for distortions of all kinds when we fail to read the Word of God and put what it says into practice.

Have you survived the tide of traditions sweeping your church? They may well be the traditions of men. Only the Word of God will work for you as the final arbiter. The more you stick to the Word the less likely you will fall into the trap of false teachings. Feed on the Word of God, who is Jesus, for a perfect fellowship and a sound conscience!