The Pharisees had a special way to wash their hands before they ate (Mark 7:3). Having a special way to wash your hands is not sinful. With our children, we have them say their “ABCs” as they wash to help them memorize the alphabet and to make sure their hands are scrubbed long enough. There is nothing wrong with traditionally doing something a certain way. However, we must exercise caution in these situations, for it is possible for an action that is not inherently wrong to become a sin.
The Pharisees had a tradition regarding hand washing. Over the years that tradition had solidified into a manmade doctrine and now became a tool for condemnation. In fact, the Pharisees and the Scribes asked Jesus “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?” (Mark 7:5). Their tradition became a law, an idol, because of this, Jesus declares to them
“Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” (Mark 7:6-8).
Is it possible that items of our own opinion, which are not inherently right or wrong, have grown into manmade doctrines and become tests of faithfulness? It is easy for traditions to grow into idols that that we serve and worship instead of God. If you don’t think this true, try changing something “that has always been done” a certain way and see what happens.
We are to never change or unbind what God has bound in Scripture. When it comes to matters of tradition, however, it may be good to change things every once in awhile to make sure our traditions have not become idols. Change just for the sake of change is not always bad, although it may be scary at times.
Written by Cliff