But you say, ‘If any one tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is given to God, he need not honor his father.’

So, for the sake of your tradition, you have made void the word of God.

Matthew 15:5‭-‬6 RSV

The Pharisees were making a secondary duty the excuse for denying a primary one, a device observed continually in all ages.

By dedicating his properties to the temple, the selfish man, by reserving a life estate in his possessions, could legally deny any aid or support of needy parents, thus thwarting completely God’s will relative to honoring father and mother.

The Pharisees had a name for this device.

They called it Corban!

It had no origin or permission of God’s true word but was one of their sinful traditions.

What’s wrong with tradition?

Only one thing; it vitiates God’s word.

Any harm in it?

Take the case presented here, relative to washing hands ceremonially, which was the basis of the Pharisees’ assault on Christ.

That ceremony was harmless in a sense, perhaps even helpful as cleanliness or hygiene; but it had been forced into the worship of God, solely by human authority, and eventually blinded the eyes of men so completely that they could not even see the Son of Righteousness!

The tradition of washing hands was fortified by the unanimous consent and approval of religious leaders.

It was supported by all the established institutions.

It was honored by the most widespread and extensive observance of it by all the people.

It had been in vogue for many centuries; yet all this did not and could not make it right to inject even so innocent a thing as washing hands into the worship of God.


God accepts only those things as worship which he himself has authorized and commanded.

Furthermore, given a choice between the word of God and the human tradition, the universal experience of the human race is to the effect that the tradition wins acceptance and the word of God is violated.

Mark’s account of this place has the words, “Full well do you reject the commandment of God that you may keep your tradition” (Mark 7:8,9).

In the case at hand, the scribes and Pharisees rejected Christ in order to keep their tradition.

Behold the life cycle of tradition:

(1) First appears the innovation, something new, clothed with specious plausibility, riding the crest of some unusual occasion, some exceptional circumstance, or emergency.

(2) It is repeated and moves into a place of acceptance as something allowed, occasionally at first, invariably afterwards.

(3) It becomes appreciated as an “aid” to the worship, something helpful.

(4) Eventually, it is stressed and emphasized to the detriment of what it is supposed to “aid.”

(5) It achieves, through long usage, a status of equality with God’s word.

(6) It is finally performed, occasionally, but later, always, instead of God’s commandment.

(7) Finally, it blooms as a presumptuous, rebellious contradiction of God’s word, and is constantly honored in place of it.

In the light of Christ’s word, “In vain do they worship me, teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men,” one is compelled to view innovations in Christian worship as extremely sinful and hurtful.

‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ ”
Matthew 15:8‭-‬9 RSV

It's Your Turn. Write Something. Say Something.