And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves also break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘The one who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,” he is not to honor his father or mother.’ And by this you have invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.”

In response to the Pharisees’ indictment, Jesus turned the tables back on them. Why were they so willing to forgo the law for something that was only a tradition? For the Pharisees, the Mosaic Law was just the starting point. They leaned on generations of traditions and interpretations compounded on top of the law.

The Pharisees had traded the very Word of God for traditions of their own making. Jesus reminded them of the command to honor their father and mother (Ex. 20:12). Yet, even though this was written in the law, they found it okay to give away their resources instead of caring for their parents. Their tradition of giving to God was masking their disobedience to the law. Jesus wouldn’t let them make a law out of something that actually opposed God’s law. To honor one’s mother and father in name only, while not actually providing for their needs, wasn’t honoring them or God’s law.

The Pharisees let their pride and haughty spirits blind them to the very Son of God who stood right in front of them. Though we may see their downfall clearly, we are often guilty of the same religious pride. We too hold up our good works and church attendance as if we have checked all of the boxes God desires for us. Those checked boxes might make us feel better about our religious resumes, but they don’t lead to abundant or eternal life. The Lord knows we are inclined to lean on our own abilities, contributions, and talents in our life and our religion, but He has called us to rely on Him.

  • Are there any commands you have traded for tradition? If so, how is God leading you back to the heart of His command?
  • What makes us want to hold so tightly to our own ways? Our own traditions? How can that hinder our witness to the world?
  • Take some time to confess the traditions you have held above God’s Word. Ask the Lord to give you a renewed love for His Word and commands, and the freedom to let go of any traditions that oppose them.