So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?” . . . And [Jesus] said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!” (Mark 7:5, 9).
Britain’s House of Commons has traditionally inscribed its laws on parchment. Recently, after 600 years, it voted to use paper instead. The vote wasn’t without rancor. At least one MP protested: “This is destroying a piece of culture, history and tradition for no particular reason.”
I wouldn’t say “no” reason. Parchment costs $45 a sheet. Archival paper only costs twenty cents. At my house, this would be a “no brainer.”
Tradition is often “the way we’ve always done it.” Sometimes, tossing tradition is a good idea. Sometimes not. Jesus wasn’t against tradition – not even in our text. What he was against were traditions that violated the will of God, or competed with that will. Jesus condemned his critics because their tradition got in the way of their obedience.
An obedient faith, practiced over time, becomes a tradition. But it is not just a tradition. In at least three places Paul refers to obedient Christian practice as “tradition” – 1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:15 and 3:8.
Let’s be careful of three things: First, that we never refer to any of our faith practices as just traditions when they in fact have a divine mandate. Second, that we not allow any faith practice that is just tradition to compete with what God has actually said. Third, let’s be careful to make following the will of God the tradition of our lives.