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Daily Worship


February 5 | Mark 7:1-8





The Role of Human Tradition

by Pr. Dave Mann


The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were more concerned about observing the traditions of the day than they were in following the Lord. 


The motivation and tradition of washing hands and eating vessels had nothing to do with personal hygiene, which we observe today because of our knowledge of the danger of microbes. It was about cleansing themselves of spiritual stain, i.e., rubbing shoulders in the crowded marketplace with defiled people (sinners, prostitutes, and tax collectors). It was a ceremonial pouring of a certain amount of water in a certain way while reciting certain words. These washings were commanded by tradition, not by Scripture.


The main point of Jesus is found in verse 8: “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.” What are the commands of God that these leaders were not observing? See Matthew 22:37-40. Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”


Christian followers of Jesus all over the world in diverse cultures have both Holy Scripture and human traditions which have taken root over the years of religious practice. Human traditions are not necessarily wrong. It is normal for such traditions to develop over time.  Anyone who has worshiped in Christian settings in other cultures knows that the manner of worship can take many different shapes. The singing of songs of praise to God is accompanied only by drums in parts of Africa. Christian songs in India are set to a tonal scale including quarter steps which sound quite out of tune to a Western ear. Men and women sit on opposite sides of the center aisle in Cameroon. Some worship experiences never take an offering, while others take two or three.


The challenge is not to let human traditions take precedence over the commands of God. What human traditions do you have in your spiritual life? Do these traditions enhance your obedience to the Lord, or are you letting them distract you from obeying the commandments that God has clearly given us in Holy Scripture?



Lord of all, I pray you would give me eyes to identify the practices of my Christian walk which are rooted in human tradition, and which are truly of you. I sincerely want my own human traditions to enhance my walk with you. Help me obey you and love you with a pure heart. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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1 Comment

Feb 05

Thank you, Dave. Ever since I joined UALC I have set aside many of my former traditions developed while being a member of the Catholic church. We continue with some traditions like grace before meals, sign of the cross as a reflection of honoring the Triune God and a few others. On balance, traditions do not play a very large role in our spiritual walk or worship life which allows us to focus on real spiritual connection through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.


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