In order to understand this in its full context, we will read Mark 7:5-13, “Then the Pharisees ands scribes asked Him, ‘Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?’ He answered them and said to them, Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from 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. He said to them, All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother’; and, ‘He who curses father and mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, If a man says to his father and mother, ‘Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban’—(that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do” (NKJV).

The lesson in this passage is clear.  The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were guilty of setting aside God’s Word in favor of their own man-made traditions. They claimed great devotion to the Lord in all of their “outward” rituals, but they were “inwardly” corrupt. Isaiah’s prophecy spoke of this, for he said, “This people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” (see Isaiah 29:13). The Lord Jesus then gave a glaring example of their hypocrisy. The Law of Moses commanded them to “Honor your father and mother,” which would include taking care of them financially if they were in need. To get around this commandment they came up with a tradition called “Corban,” which means “dedicated.” Based on this tradition a son or daughter could approach their parents and say “Corban,” which would imply that their money had been dedicated to God and this would relieve them of their responsibility to help their parents in their need. To make this even more tragic they might actually keep the money for selfish interests. How heartless! Yet this is what happens when men are merely cloaked with a “veneer of religion.” They have no love for the Word of God AND they have no love for their fellow-man! This religious hypocrisy leads them to look for “loopholes” to avoid having to obey God’s commandments and that’s exactly where “man-made traditions” come in. After pointing out this terrible example of replacing God’s Word with their own traditions, the Lord Jesus said, “And many such things you do.” This was only one of many man-made traditions that they had added to the Word of God and the effect was they made “the word of God of no effect through your tradition.”

It should be pointed out that there are “traditions based on the Word of God.” We read in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, “Therefore brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” These “traditions” are the blessed “truths” that have been handed down to us through the inspired apostles. Perhaps this verse is used by religious leaders today to justify traditions they practice. But if their traditions contradict the Word of God, they are, as we have seen, worthless and they actually corrupt the Word of God. In the light of our short meditation, we would do well to examine the traditions in our churches today. If they are based on God’s word, we should heed Paul’s word, “Hold the traditions which ye have been taught.” But if they are not based on the Word of God, we should follow our blessed Lord’s example and expose them for what they are, “the commandments of men.”  (191.1)  (DO)