You ever find yourself reading the Bible and applying it to everyone else but you? Who doesn't find themselves doing that at one time or another? Check out this verse:
"For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." Romans 15:4
Notice that it says for "our" learning...not "their" learning. It is each of our responsibility to compare ourselves with the mirror of God's Word. Now that you know where I'm coming from, check out this passage:
Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, "Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread." He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God" --'then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'" Matthew 15:1-9
When I would read this passage so many times over, the first thing that came to mind was, "Yup, the Pharisees were doing something wrong again..." But, since we know that it was written for OUR learning, we must find out what God is telling US through this passage.
You probably see it as a big deal for the Pharisees to make up an exception to God's command, and rightly so. But do you ever check to make sure you aren't making exceptions to God's Word? For example, the Bible says that all liars will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. But, sometimes we think that if we are telling the truth in just a slightly deceptive way, then it's somehow ok. Or even the example presented in the text itself: "Honor your father and your mother." We think that if they aren't treating us the way they should, then it's justifiable to dishonor or disobey them (although, if a command is directly contrary to God's Word, that is the one exception based on God's Word). Or what about if we "borrow" something, and don't return it. We don't always believe that is as bad of an action as outright stealing. Yet, that is merely OUR exception to God's rule--not one He gave to us.
Check out that last part of the Scripture: "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me..." That's a strong statement! Doesn't that sound a whole lot like the average American Christian? God's telling us that is useless to worship Him in word but not in deed--such as by making your own exceptions to His law. How can you really believe something if you don't fully act on it?
Beginning to see how this passage pertains to you? Just because something is the way you, or even your church, has always done it doesn't make it right. Jesus is warning us (not just the people of the past) that we can't let tradition get in our way of obeying His Word. If something goes against the word of God--even if it's tradition--we must adjust OURSELVES so we can daily look more and more like Christ as we look into the mirror of His Word.