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Empty Tradition

“‘You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men’” (Mark 7:8).

After the Jewish people returned from their seventy-year exile in Babylon, they were determined to never again stray from God’s law. They would obey Him exactly, doing whatever He required so they would never again be subject to such horrible punishment. To help the people better understand God’s commandments, the religious leaders wrote their own commentaries on the law, explaining God’s law and providing practical ways to keep it.

Unfortunately, they took this renewed zeal for obedience too far. They added extra requirements to God’s already perfect law, placing undue burdens on the people. By the time Jesus came to earth, it was the teachings of the religious leaders that ruled society, not God’s actual commands.

Jesus often confronted the Pharisees, the leading party of religious leaders, about this. He called them out again and again on how they were elevating their own teachings above God’s Word. They honored God with their lips, but in their hearts, they cared only for their own reputation. They wanted to be seen as incredible teachers endowed with supernatural wisdom. They worked hard to keep the rules they had made for themselves, believing that through this, they could earn more favor with God.

But they had blinded themselves. By seeking to be perfect in the eyes of people, they had forgotten what it really meant to honor God. They no longer sought God, looking instead to their own traditions and commentaries. They failed to truly read God’s Word, neglecting careful study of His inspired writings in favor of practical ways to demonstrate their own righteousness.

And so these most religious of men missed the very God they claimed to obey, even as He lived among them for thirty-three years.

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