These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away. Their worship is a farce, for they replace God’s commands with their own man-made teachings.” Isaiah 29:13 as quoted in Mark 7:7.
In 1914, Bayer started putting cotton in their bottles of aspirin to reduce breakage of the tablets during shipment from the manufacturing plant to the store. In the mid-1980s, however, they figured out that if they coated the tablets with Toleraid microcoating, that this would make the tablets less susceptible to breakage. Amazingly, it wasn't until January 1999 that they finally made the decision to get rid of the cotton ball in the aspirin bottle, and this only after four and a half years of testing and discussions. An eighty-five year old tradition ended, some fifteen years after it had become obsolete.
How many traditions in the Church need to also be ended because they are obsolete?
This is part of the point that Jesus makes in Mark 7. The Pharisees are critical of Jesus’ disciples because they don’t ceremonially wash their hands before they eat. Jesus’ response is in Mark 7:7, where He quotes Isaiah 29:13 (see above).
I’m all for traditions. There are some beloved traditions in my own family – cutting down the family Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving is one. Family pizza night on Fridays and Family pancake breakfast on Saturdays are two more. Then there is the “Christmas Candle” tradition that was passed down from my grandmother, to my mother, to me.
Some traditions are worthwhile and important to maintain, especially in the Church. But if a tradition is maintained at the expense of the relationship that it is meant to build and strengthen, then it is something that needs to be questioned and, just possibly, discarded.
God wants, above all else, to have a relationship with you. He cares so much – He loves you so much – that He sent Jesus Christ to die in your place, for your sin, on the cross. The traditions that Scripture establishes – such as prayer, hymn/song singing, Holy Communion – are meant to uphold and strengthen that relationship that God desires with you.
If you don’t know why something is done in your worship service, ask your pastor or elder/deacon or altar guild member. Most likely they will be able to tell you and you’ll be amazed at how it gels with the relationship that God wants with you.
But if the answer is “because we’ve always done it that way” then I say it’s a tradition that needs to be seriously questioned. You may find that even though most people feel that it’s only done “because it’s always been done” it really does point to a worthwhile tradition that nobody knew the reason for. Finding out that reason will be a relationship building exercise – and it most likely will be fun, too!
Check out the traditions in your church. I think you’ll be amazed at what you find! And if you find it amazing, share it with me by sending me an email about your tradition and the reason that you found out it is done.
Have fun and have a good worship experience!
© 2015 True Men Ministries