Lesson 5 -- second quarter 2003
March 30, 2003
© Copyright 2003, Christian Light Publications
The Pharisees and scribes strike me as men who were hard to please, at least in some areas. In Mark 7:2 we learn they were fault finders. They allowed themselves to major on and get sidetracked by others' imperfections. Graphically speaking, they could swallow a draft horse but almost choke to death trying to get down a fruit fly. Presumably that means they tolerated glaring failures of their own while getting all worked up over the insignificant shortcomings of others.
One thing I find alarming about the Pharisees is that they were their religion's conservatives. That reality alarms me because I too am a conservative. So I wonder if conservatives are somehow predisposed to being picky, cranky, fault finders. Having been reminded of the fault-finding, hard-to-please outlook of the Pharisees, I hereby purpose to guard my own way of looking at others.
Don't get me wrong, though. I make no apologies for conservatism nor do I wish to water down a zeal for faithfulness and obedience. The solution to a fault-finding spirit is not to lower standards or discard truth. Absolutely not! The best solution I know for a critical disposition is justice, grace, and love. May God cause all His people to overflow with these manifestations of His own Spirit.
When is tradition dangerous?
The Pharisees of Jesus' day had many traditions that guided their daily conduct, determined their perception of their relationship with Jehovah, and influenced their relationships with others. No doubt most of those traditions were not original with them, having been passed on to them by their fathers. These traditions were (at least originally) intended to maintain or gain favor with God and/or man. Thus many of these traditions may not have been wrong. But by the time we make their acquaintance in the Gospels, these traditions had become dangerous. So we need to ask ourselves what makes a tradition dangerous.
"This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me" (Mark 7:6). When we observe a tradition (or practice a doctrine or live an application) solely for outward show and not from the heart, we mock God. We can allow tradition to become a mere form, a duty we perform with no thought of God. Even our singing can degenerate to that level, becoming the vain worship so despised by God.
"Laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men" (Mark 7:8). A tradition can so absorb us that we disregard what the Bible teaches. This can happen quite unintentionally. God forbid we should ever allow any tradition to displace a zeal for knowing and obeying God's will as shown in His Word.
"Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition" (Mark 7:13). Some people, in their commitment to tradition, purposefully set aside what God Himself has to say about a given matter. For them what the Bible says does not matter anymore; they deem tradition to supersede what the Bible declares. Other people, with similar zeal for tradition, allow themselves to become that hard soil in which God's Word cannot sprout and develop into a fruitful plant. For them tradition has become the means and purpose of spirituality; they can no longer respond to the Scriptures.
By now you have surely discovered something very important: The basic problem isn't with tradition after all! We ourselves are the problem. When we allow God to create a new heart within us and daily renew our spirits, we will use (and respond to) tradition in a way that brings glory to the All Glorious One.
So treasure the godly traditions you have . . . but keep a watch over your heart!
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