Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law now arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They asked him, “Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.”
Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents. And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,
‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’” (Matthew 15:1-9)
The Pharisees and teachers of the law came from Jerusalem, the center of Jewish authority, to scrutinize Jesus’ activities. Over the centuries since the Jews’ return from Babylonian captivity, hundreds of religious traditions had been added to God’s laws. The Pharisees and teachers of the law considered them all equally important.
Anyone who made a Corban vow was required to dedicate money to God’s Temple that otherwise would have gone to support a person’s parents. Corban had become a religiously acceptable way to neglect parents, circumventing the child’s responsibility to them. Although the action—giving money to God—seemed worthy and no doubt conferred prestige on the giver, many people who took the Corban vow were disregarding God’s command to care for needy parents. These religious leaders were ignoring God’s clear command to honor their parents.
Many traditions are not bad in themselves. Certain traditions can add richness and meaning to life. But we must not assume that because our traditions have been practiced for years they should be elevated to a sacred standing. God’s principles never change, and his law doesn’t need additions. Traditions should help us understand God’s laws better, not become laws themselves.
When we claim to honor God while our hearts are far from him, our worship means nothing. Our actions and attitudes must be sincere. In what ways do you show the high priority of worship?