"Traditions or Commandments"- Matthew 15:1-14

What I Practice: Self-control - I have the power through Christ to control myself.

Titus 2:11-13 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope-the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Self-control is all about doing the right thing and not doing the wrong thing. The dictionary defines the word self-control this way "to exercise restraint over one's own impulses, emotions, or desires." From a human perspective the lowest form of maturity is functioning out of feelings. From a biblical point of view, Christians with self-control bring their beliefs, practices, and values into conformity with the standard set by God's word-external pressures, internal inclinations and feelings notwithstanding.

Scripture:  Matthew 15:1-14  Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ” 10 And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” 12 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” 13 He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. 14 Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

The Message of this Passage:  Jesus confronted, head on, the hypocrisy of the religious leaders who have elevated their traditions over honoring and knowing God. So Jesus confronts them and then gives them up to themselves by saying, let them alone, which means, let their own evil ways bury them. They had their chance to repent, but, the hardness of their hearts and their pride alienated them from the very thing they said they were honoring! Their traditions clouded them and their people from knowing the real God! Why such a strong stance? Because, rituals and traditions can easily become equal to or have even more authority to men than God and His Word. They can elevate what is not important over what is! 


Traditions can be a good way to honor God, if they come from the right place-from our sincere devotion to Christ and our desire to give Him the glory. Traditions and the theme, "we have always done it this way," can also hide the purpose of the church and neutralize the gospel.  If we become over- devoted to our traditions and rituals, we will surely miss out on the possible intent of those rituals, which is seeking to glorify God. All too often, rituals become the worship and focus of a church, orienting energies upon this thing or that program. Discipleship, teaching, learning, and spiritual growth get lost or worse are absent. Instead of our faith being organic in its growth it is organized around rituals or programs.

Answering Interpretive Questions:

  • Read Matthew 15:1-9. What wrong were Jesus' disciples accused of doing? What had they done? Who made the accusation?

  • What was Jesus' reply to the accusation?

  • Do you ever find yourself being hypocritical in your worship? How can we keep ourselves from being hypocritical?

  • Are traditions always bad or wrong?

  • What do you think Jesus meant when He said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted,” (v. 13)? (See also Matthew 3:12, 13:30)

  • Jesus is says that it is not what goes into your mouth that defiles you, rather it is what come out of your mouth that defiles you. Where does that which comes out of your mouth come from (v. 18)? (See also Luke 6:45, James 3:6)

  • Out of a man’s heart proceeds many evil thoughts. What are ways that evil thoughts get into our hearts. (See Jeremiah 17:9, Galatians 5:19-21)

  • How can you tell what is stored in your heart? (See Luke 6:45)

  • God made a way for us to keep our hearts, which are desperately wicked, pure. Think about what it takes to keep your heart pure. (See John 17:17, 1 John 1:8-10)

The world sees committed Christians and churches, but very little activity that can only be explained in terms of God’s activity.

Grant SchweisthalMatthew