“You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions…You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honour your father and mother,’and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God) – then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
Mark 7:8-13 (NIV UK)
From childhood I have enjoyed playing cards. My grandfather taught me how to play Pontoon (Twenty One), Gin Rummy, Hearts and, my favorite, Trumps.
In “Trumps” a chosen card suit beats the others in the pack. Even the smallest card number of the trump suit beats the highest cards of the other suits. For example, if diamonds is trumps, the two of diamonds defeats the aces of spades, clubs, and hearts.
The scripture above discusses how, at the time of Jesus, some religious leaders thought that their traditions trumped the scriptures. Some traditions contained scriptural references, but they had taken on a life of their own. The customs were regarded as equal to, if not greater than, Scripture in value. “Corban”, meaning “gift” was a case in point. It was a devious way of getting around the notion of honoring parents by claiming to put God first. The Pharisees insisted on gifts to the Temple even though in so giving, for some it meant being unable to take care of elderly parents. Such gifts, they taught, trump any scriptural principle about respecting others.
Jesus said that God’s Word was devalued by their traditions. Jesus continued, “You do many things like that.” Religious observances were more important to the Pharisees than caring for families and for the underprivileged. Such things also happen today. We too can place traditions higher than God’s Word. It’s like saying that our customs are the trump suit that trumps anything the Bible has to say.
Let’s not overvalue our cherished traditions. They may be helpful at times, but the centre of our faith, the highest card in our deck, so to speak, is always Jesus, of whom all of Scripture testifies. Our participation in his loving others through us beats everything else.
It is Jesus, the Word of God, who trumps all our traditions.
Father, thank you, for Jesus who is the embodiment of your Word, and of whom the scriptures testify. Help us please to prioritize his words over all of our traditions and customs. In Jesus name.
Study by James Henderson
About the Author:
James Henderson is the National Ministry Leader for Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland. You are welcome to attend any of our local congregations. For details of your nearest local congregation, check on our website, www.wcg.org.uk under the ‘Churches’ tab, or ring +44 (0)1858 437099.