The Tradition of Men (Part I)

The scribes and Pharisees accused Jesus’ disciples of not washing their hands before they ate bread. The Pharisees confronted Jesus, intending to invalidate his claim of being godly by showing him that his disciples were falling short of divine laws. The author of the book of Mark added more information showing us some holiness practices of the Pharisees.

Mark 7:3-4

For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. 

And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables.     

The Holiness Practices of Pharisees include:

Washing hands before they eat

When coming from the market, they wash many parts of their body.

Washing of cups, pots, brasen vessels, and tables.

The name they gave to these types of holiness practices is the tradition of the fathers.

The Pharisees demanded that Jesus make his followers follow these elders’ traditions in addition to other guidelines Jesus taught them to follow. The response of Jesus was elaborate because he schooled the disciples and scribes on the original guideline of God for the conduct of humanity.


Mark 7:6-7

He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 

Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 

For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. 

From the words of Jesus, we can deduce the following:

  1. Advocating for the tradition of elders instead God’s commandment is hypocrisy
  2. Making the tradition of elders the guideline for once life as a replacement for God’s commandment is honouring God with one’s lips while the heart of man is far from God.
  3. The worship of anyone who violates God’s commandment but practices the tradition of elders (commandment of men)

When men cannot keep the commandment of God because their hearts are far away from him, they hold on to the traditions of the elders. These elders’ traditions are externalities that convince men of seared conscience that they are pleasing God. That was why Jesus referred to the lips. Lips make noise, but the sound of the heart requires a unique device to amplify it. It is always evident to everyone when you wash the cup and tables, but no one notices when you refuse to entertain evil thoughts in your heart.

The tradition of men usually makes the word of God of no effect. Jesus illustrated the commandment of God that demands children to honour their parents. On the other hand, the tradition of men says that when a child tells the parents that the gift that I am giving is a gift from God, I owe you nothing; the child is not wrong. The tradition of men accommodating children dishonouring their parents without feeling guilty.

You may have abandoned the teaching of Jesus entirely as a guideline for your life. If you are using the tradition of men, you will be glad that you are doing external things that are very loud while you ignore the godly demands. For example, it is very loud to take a gift to men of God while you owe people who work for you.

Action Point

Go to the father and ask him to forgive you in every area you followed the tradition of men

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