The Danger of Religious Traditions And Extra Rules – Matthew 15:1-20

Reflection from my reading in Matthew 15:1-20 in the One Year Bible New Testament.

Tradition! Tradition! Tradition!

 The religious leaders  came to test Jesus, attempting to get him in trouble for not following the traditions of the day. The tradition in question was the ceremonial washing of the hands before eating. They equated following human traditions with spiritual maturity. Basically they had elevated human traditions to the same level as God’s commands!

Tools Vs Rules

He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” Matthew 15:3

Jesus reprimanded them for focusing so much on human traditions that they we’re actually not obeying the simplest command to “Honor your father and mother.”

Traditions often start as helpful tools to help you follow God. The problems come when we elevate the tools to the same level as the actual rules.

When tools become rules, we become fools!

When the focus shifts to outward conformity, instead of inward transformation, legalism happens.

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

Legalism happens when the commands of men become as important as the commands of God.

No One Likes A Fake

Not only do those enslaved in legalism suffer under the unrealistic burdens, but non-believers look in and say, “If that is Christianity, I want no part of it!” The truth is that even those who pretend they are measuring up are just pretending. People can smell someone who is fake a mile away, and will stay away!

The Heart of the Matter

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.” Matthew 15:17–20

Jesus cares most about the heart, because that is what really controls you. The good news is that Jesus offers us a new heart when we choose to repent of our sin, believe in his sacrificial death, and choose to follow him. Stick to the clear commands of scripture and don’t add or subtract from them. Focus on following Jesus with a pure heart instead of following human tradition.

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About David Worcester

I am the founder and director of a campus ministry at San Diego State called Challenge. I am also serving as an ordained elder at Mission Trails Church. I love speaking and writing about college ministry, gospel appointments, and practical ways to live out God’s Word! I am also passionate about: leadership training, learning, missions, church planting, surfing, hiking, sports, photography and traveling (So far I’ve visited 23 countries & all 50 states). I’m married to Jessica Worcester who I fell in love with while doing college ministry together and we have a two year old son named Samuel. I graduated from from the University of Oklahoma (OU) with a degree in Film & Video Studies. And I received my Masters in Theological Studies from Gateway Seminary. I am an ordained minister who loves speaking and writing about practical ways to live out God’s Word in life and ministry.

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