Tradition! Tradition.

Tradition is good, but always consider scripture.

Luke 14:1-6 (ESV)

One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” And they could not reply to these things.

At first glance, this sounds like Jesus is going light on the Pharisees this time. He doesn’t call them hypocrites or anything like that.

But this is actually a more pointed criticism. The key is the word, “lawful.” The Mosaic Law doesn’t prohibit healing on the Sabbath. But the Pharisees follow something called “the tradition of the elders.”

For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, – Mark 7:3 (ESV)

This tradition only allows medical treatment on the Sabbath in life threatening situations. So, Jesus asks, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?

They’re stuck and no one says anything. So, Jesus heals the man and then says, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?

He’s saying that when push comes to shove they don’t follow the tradition of the elders anyway. This also hints that this “tradition” is stupid.

And they could not reply to these things.


Our practice of Christianity is full of tradition. Christmas trees are tradition. Easter baskets are tradition.

Many of these traditions are good. Old traditions often reflect interpretations of scripture that have stood the test of time. That’s why the classic hymns hold a special attraction for me.

But not every tradition is right or even healthy. Some of them are designed to sell things or otherwise pursue a secular agenda. We are called to discern the difference. As always, test everything against God’s word.

But don’t insist that everything be explicitly supported by scripture; only make sure something isn’t contradicted by it. For example, you can’t find a Biblical passage to support the idea of decorating trees to celebrate Christ’s birth.

But there’s nothing indicating it’s wrong either. So, it passes the scripture test.

If scripture had to explicitly support everything we do, we couldn’t drive cars.


The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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