You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men. (Mark 7:8)

I TOOK ONE LOOK at my two sons running in for supper, and before they reached the table I said, “Stop! Please go and wash. You’re not eating with those hands.” After playing in the garden, their fingers and nails were caked with red mud. For them to eat with their hands in that state would not only have been unhealthy, they would have dirtied my linen and put us all off our food!

The Pharisees and teachers of the law took it much further. Their form of religion was steeped in traditions: for example, the ceremonial washing. They washed frequently, in a specific manner and for the wrong reasons. If they had been to the market, they washed in case they had come into contact with “unclean” people such as Gentiles. In this passage, they weren’t concerned that the disciples would get sick, but were being critical because the disciples weren’t holding with tradition.

In the Christian church today, there are many religious traditions that are not in the Word of God: traditions about how we eat, drink, or dress; how the worship service should always be practiced; or what songs we sing. It is also possible to do the right things for the wrong reasons or to criticize others for doing things differently instead of showing them by example. Let us be more concerned with God’s principles than with man-made traditions.

Ask God to help you to distinguish between His will for you and His will for others.

Shirley Corder is a registered nurse, pastor’s wife, and cancer survivor. She lives with her husband near the sea in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.