Message Tab

Tradition or Pharisaism?


This is in response to a letter I read denouncing Shorter College for their “weak stance” on alcohol. I would like to reference scripture verses of Matthew 15:3-9 and Colossians 2:16-23, both from the New International Version.

Modern Christians tend to misjudge the Pharisees. From a human standpoint the Pharisees were not evil men disguising themselves as good, they were religious men desperately trying to be good.

Let’s take a quick look at how Pharisaism developed. While in the Babylonian captivity, the religious leaders began to rightly reason, “We are in this mess because we broke the Law of God.” Moving forward from that premise, they devised a strategy to rectify the problem.

That strategy resulted in erecting fences around the Law of God in an effort to keep people from breaking that law. Historically the process resulted in the work we know as the Talmund. By Jesus’ day there were some 724 volumes of rabbinic interpretations all designed to keep the Jews from stepping over the boundary of the Law.

Unfortunately, the very fences these rabbinic leaders erected to protect the Law became the very obstacles that obscured the Law and elicited Jesus scathing rebuke, “Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.”

Modern Christians are not immune. How sad when we as believers allow our traditions to trump biblical truth!  

As I see it there are two very real dangers facing the church today. One is modernity, a view that is constantly altering the Word of God in hopes of staying relevant. A second danger is the danger of Pharisaism where traditions become mistaken as truth.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to tradition, but I am opposed to any tradition that is elevated to the status of biblical truth and supported by Scriptures purposefully misinterpreted as the frame of tradition is forced upon what we allow the Scripture to say.

We need to be careful students of the Scripture. We need to carefully guard the truth of God’s Word, and avoid the dangers inherent in either liberalism or Pharisaism.