You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men." Matthew 15:7-8
I recently heard the folklore of the wife who always cut off both ends of a pot roast before putting it into the oven. When her husband asked her why she did this, she said, "I don't know…my mom always did it, so I do too."
Next he asked her mother the reason when he saw her doing the same thing. To which his mother-in-law replied, "I'm not sure…that's what my mom always did." This pattern continued as he went to the grandmother, receiving the same reply, and finally to the great-grandmother, who was still living. Finally the buck stopped with great granny, and the mystery was finally solved. "Well, my oven used to be so small I couldn't fit the whole roast in, so I had to cut off the ends."
There's a saying that "behavior is caught more than taught." So many things we grow up doing without even knowing why, just because we saw our parents doing them. But the fact is, traditions can be either a powerful teaching tool or the other extreme, a debilitating obstacle. We can live by meaningful truths that teach our friends and families how to follow Christ, or we can teach them by example how to worship Him in vain with meaningless rules and customs. The distinction is vital because when it comes to truly following Christ, rules and traditions have nothing to do with the condition of our hearts or our love relationship to God. Here are some examples of common unbiblical traditions taught by people:
A person is saved by "praying the sinners prayer" or asking Jesus into their heart (truth: a person is saved by believing in (trusting in) Jesus (John 1:12, 3:18, 20:31, 1 John 5:13). This might come through a specific prayer or just an inner decision over time).
Jesus was crucified on Friday and rose again on Sunday (truth: Jesus was actually in the earth for three days and three nights, Matthew 12:40. He was possibly crucified on a Wednesday at sundown, and risen on Saturday (Sabbath) at sundown).
If I want to please God, I must live by a bunch of rules found throughout the Bible, especially the ones in the New Testament (truth: I honor God by keeping the two commandments that summed up the whole law—love God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love others as myself, Matthew 22:36-40. This is the New Covenant, but it does not dismiss living by the Law, it upholds it in renewed form).
My sins are small compared to other people's (truth: if I have committed one sin, I am guilty of every sin, James 2:10).
God will never give me more than I can handle (truth: When living a surrendered life, God will often ask me to do things that are beyond my capability so that He will get the glory (Exodus 4:28, Deuteronomy 4:34, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10).
We must ask God to open our eyes to the many man-made teachings and traditions that have become a stumbling block to our pure love and devotion to Christ, especially so that we will not lead others into a dead-end set of rules that keep them from meaningful worship of Christ in spirit and in truth.