When Traditions Void the Word of God – Matthew 15

“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.”  Matthew 15:5-6 ESV

In Matthew 15, we come to an interesting exchange between Jesus and the religious leaders.

Jesus and his followers are being chastised by the leaders because they are not following the tradition of ceremonial washing before eating.

This was a tradition passed down by the Rabbis and was not a Mosaic Law.

It involved an elaborate washing ritual – washing one’s hands, and the cups, pitchers and kettles to be used for the meal.

The leaders saw this as a sort of spiritual cleansing for the people.

In this passage, we see Jesus turning the situation around, accusing the leaders of breaking God’s actual commands for the sake of their own traditions.

Jesus cites the fifth commandment as an example – honoring one’s father and mother. (Exodus 20:12)

This was so important to the ancient Israelites that anyone who cursed their parents could be put to death. (Exodus 21:17)  Yikes!

Scripture teaches we are to honor our parents.

Jesus affirms it here and I am also reminded of Paul’s teachings in 1 Timothy 5.

“But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God.” 1 Timothy 5:4 ESV

“But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”  1 Timothy 5:8 ESV

According to Jewish tradition, if a parent needed help, their child could declare anything of value as Corbin, meaning it was a gift saved for God.

The idea was the person could still use it until they died, then it was donated to the temple.

Jesus saw this as an example of how man-made traditions voided the very Word of God.

This is what traditions can do.

They play one law against another.

Corban is allegedly about loving God, but hard-hearted children used it to avoid caring for their parents.

Tradition looks at the letter of the law and often seeks to manipulate it or exploit loopholes.

It ignores the law’s spirit and the people whom the law protects and directs.

Traditions look at the hands; God’s law examines the heart.

May it never be said of God’s people today -“in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”


Until next time – keep reading!



Excerpts for this blog were taken directly from: Matthew by D.M. Doriani 

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