[When asked why his disciples didn't do the ceremonial hand washing,] 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."
— Matthew 15:3-6 NLT
We cannot live in fellowship or have community worship without some traditions. Traditions help us make life more predictable and manageable. They give worship assemblies a sense of purpose and recognizability. The problem comes when we let our traditions force out the things and will of God or begin to see our traditions as God’s requirements.
In Matthew's gospel, Jesus confronted the interpretation of the law that added human traditions, rituals, and restrictions that were superficial and even directly contrary to God's will. Jesus, as Immanuel ("God is with us," Matthew 1:23), used both words and actions to show what God intended in his law. He challenged many of the accepted traditional practices and interpretations. He moved directly back to God's heart and will behind the law.
For us to be true disciples, we must learn from Jesus what God's will is. He reminded us in this passage that NOTHING, no teaching or tradition, should be allowed to replace the clearly stated will of God. Otherwise, those who are hungering to find God get left out and those who know all the little rules and traditions can feel smug and self-righteous. Jesus came so the last could be first and the first, last. When tradition crowds out the will of God, the truth is lost, from first to last!
Righteous Father, keep my heart open to your will above all other things. I want to serve you and please you and bring you joy. Please don't let my mind become clouded by confusion and lose sight of your desires. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.