Jesus said  beware of religious observances and traditions that have no basis in God’s commands. This is a good time to review your church’s teachings and traditions, to make sure they are rooted in the Bible, not the traditions of man.

Referenced Scripture
Matthew 15:3-9 (OT), Mark 7:6-13 (OT), Luke 5:36-39 (OT)  , Luke 19:45-46 (OT)
OT = Jesus quoting Old Testament

Follow God’s Teaching, Not Man’s

Jesus understood human nature vey well. Quoting Isaiah 29:13 in the Old Testament, Jesus said, “They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” (Mark 7:7). Jesus understood that people have a tendency to go their own way, to make changes and modifications to better suit their individual preferences. It was like this in Jesus’ day, and continues in the present age. This is ok when it comes to things like how you cook your eggs, cut your hair, or decorate your home. God has given us plenty of choices and freedom to make changes in our lives, but NOT changes to His commands.

The example given in the referenced scriptures is the man-made teaching that it was ok to give money to the Jewish synagogue in lieu of using that money to take care of your mother and father. Man’s teaching was that this was ok, but Jesus said  this violated the spirit of the 5th Commandment, “For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’… “(Matthew 15:4). Beware of things that look good or sound good on the surface, but really are in violation of God’s commands. In this example, the person was giving money to the church, which seems like a good thing, right? However, Jesus said  it was wrong!

It doesn’t matter the reason. Did the person give the money in order to “look good” to others? Were the spiritual leaders guilty of greed for taking it? Or, sadly, did the person give the money because they truly thought they were doing the right thing, because the spiritual leaders said so? Doesn’t matter! Jesus said  it was ”in vain”. This underscores the importance of searching the Scriptures ourselves (like the Bereans in Acts 17:11), to make sure we are following God’s commands, not man’s.

Fasting is another example in the referenced scriptures. In Luke 5:33, the spiritual leaders were scolding Jesus because His disciples did not follow their rules for fasting. Fasting is scripturally based (Jesus said so in Matthew 6:16-18), however, the Jewish leaders had added on a bunch of man-made rules, making it burdensome nonsense! Jesus’ teaching was ‘new wine’, a ‘new garment’, that the spiritual leaders did not accept because they preferred their ‘‘old’ teaching, saying, “…’The old is better’”. (Luke 5:39). They preferred their ‘old’ teaching to what Jesus said. Yes, Jesus understood human nature. We like the comfort of our traditions and our way of doing things. We find security in our traditions, but not necessarily holiness.

Get Rid of the Burden

I wonder how many people are following traditions and rules that have been ‘added on’ by men, but are not found in the Bible? This seems like a silly, self-inflicted burden, doesn’t it? That is exactly what the Jewish leaders had done to the people in their day, and Jesus called them out for doing so! (Read Matthew 23:1-4). Some church leaders today are no different.

We must not burden ourselves unnecessarily. Jesus came to give us freedom! Are there rituals, traditions, rules, or ceremonies not found in the Bible which are being observed by us or by our churches? Are we doing these things to please God, to worship Him, but our efforts are in vain?

Call to Action

This week, pick a topic and compare your church’s teaching on it with what Jesus said. For example, I studied the traditions of my church’s worship service and compared it to what Jesus said.  Surprisingly, Jesus said very little about the topic. What He did say is so simple that it could be applied to any type of church, from one that is a small group of people who meet at someone’s home, to a larger group that owns a building they meet at regularly. Jesus said  his followers should:

–          Gather together (Matthew 18:20)

–          Pray together (Matthew 21:12-13 , Matthew 18:19)

–          Share bread to remember His sacrificial death (Luke 22:19)

So simple, like much of what Jesus said. This underscores the truth that the ‘church’ is not a building, a denomination, or membership in a group that has tax exempt status as a church. The ‘church’ is the people of God. God knows who is people are, regardless of where they live, what they look like, or where they come together to pray to Him and remember what Jesus did for the world.

My church follows what Jesus said regarding coming together as a group, without adding burdensome, man-made requirements. However, what if that was not the case? What if your study reveals that your church teaches and follows rules taught by men instead of God? If so, please pray to God and ask for guidance in following Him rather than the traditions of men. This may be uncomfortable, especially if God’s Spirit leads you to make changes in your life that may not be in line with the rules taught by leaders in your church. However, take courage and follow God, not a church, a leader, and certainly not a rule taught by a man! Jesus said so.