I sat down to have my time alone with God this morning and did something I rarely do. I just flipped open my Bible and used whatever text was before me for my time of reading and reflection. I landed on Mark 7:1-13.
This text is fascinating. The Pharisees confront Jesus (never a good idea) about his disciples not following the traditions. Jesus then confronts the Pharisees (should have seen that coming) for exalting their traditions to an equal place alongside God’s commands. He even goes so far as to rebuke them for following their traditions rather than following the commandments of God.
Jesus uses a specific example to make his point. He addresses the excuse they had come up with for not obeying the command to honor their father and mother. Their tradition sounded very spiritual. I could see them even telling others about it in their community group with pride as to how God-honoring they were. Jesus was not impressed.
I wonder how many times we do the same. Our excuses for not following God’s direct commands are often couched in “tradition” or things that sound spiritual while we ignore simple obedience.
As a Pastor, I know my priority calling is to the ministry of God’s Word and prayer. I have been meditating on this a lot recently. Yet, in the balance of my day, I get pulled away into a myriad of other things. Some of these things are good things and look productive (am I addicted to productivity?). In fact, I can neglect the core of my calling because I am doing something measurable. Perhaps it is something the church members see as meaningful. Perhaps it gives provides me with an immediate sense of having gotten something done.
In Acts 6, it would have seemed spiritual for the Apostles to serve the tables of the widows and solve a potential issue of great conflict in the early church. However, it was not the best use of their time and energy – the ministry of the Word and prayer were to be their priority.
You would be shocked at how many things I expect of myself or are expected of me as a Pastor simply because of tradition. It is what a previous Pastor did. It is what my Pastor did. It is what the church leadership books tell us is most important. Often times, these things might be useful, but they are detrimental if they distract from the priorities God has set for Pastors.
How about you? Are there commands you neglect for “good reason” or even tradition? Do you give generously to others and to the Lord’s work? Have you disregarded this command so you can provide more comfort for your family? Does providing include a house in the best zip code, the right brand of car, the best school money (or loan) can afford? All good things. None commanded by God. Give generously, even sacrificially, is commanded by God.
Do you take your family to the gathering of believers (church), or do sports, recreational activities, and work take priority? Do you model for your children sacrificial service to your church family in your area of gifting or do you use the excuse of an over-burdened schedule with work and family activities (seemingly good things) to relieve you from obeying God’s direct command?
Are you involved in Jesus’ mission? Is your lifestyle about making disciples through evangelism and discipleship? There are many other good pursuits, including career advancement, belonging to and participating in social clubs, volunteering for “causes.” In fact, those things can become channels for making disciples. The danger is when these things become the end goal, and you neglect the sharing of the hope that is within you to a lost and dying world?
One more. Do not throw stones. At least not big ones.
How about your worship tradition. The music you were raised with or the style you most enjoy. The type of room you worship in or the furniture in that room. If you “cannot worship” unless a certain type of music, or a certain room, or certain order of service is used you, you have allowed your tradition to eclipse the clear commands of God (read the Psalms). Oops – that might get some hate mail.
Don’t just get mad at me or even applaud me. I might be wrong. I am not Jesus (like I had to tell you that). Read the text, examine your own life and heart, and be honest with God. Let’s commit to obeying his commands and dump the excuses.