Vol. 11 No.6 – February, 2013
Does Context Make a Difference
In the United States, the standard railroad gauge, or distance between the rails, is four feet-eight and one half inches. American track builders used that odd measurement because that is the way railroads are built in England. The English engineers used that measure because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways. Trams used that gauge because they were built on the same construction jigs and tooling used for building wagons. This odd wheel spacing of wagons was designed to fit the ruts of old English roads, which were carved out by Roman war chariots and transport wagons. The Romans derived their chariot designs from the Hittites who developed the use of the chariot in war. The Hittites found that four feet-eight and one half inches was the ideal width for chariot wheels to provide a stable platform for the three men who would occupy the chariot: the charioteer, the warrior, and the arms bearer. Modern railroad gauge today is based on the amount of space needed in a chariot by three soldiers fighting for a nation that fell over three thousand years ago.
So often in life the pattern of what we do or why we do what we do is not based upon an original idea but one that has been held for generations. Mom cut the end of the ham off because that is what she was taught growing up; not realizing that great-grandmother started cutting the ham off because she did not have a pot big enough to cook a whole ham. Traditions are good things we pass from generation to generation. Many of these are harmless until they begin to be a pattern of our worship to God.
“Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him, having come from Jerusalem. Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches” (Mark 7:4). Cleanliness is a very important part of hygiene. However, the Pharisees and scribes were following after a tradition that was handed down from their fathers and not from God. Jesus would rebuke them saying, “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men” (Mark 7:8).
The lesson we must learn here is that whatever we do in our service to God must be based upon what God says and not what has been the tradition of the past 500 years. Peter writes, “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11). It matters not what the church has practiced in the last one hundred years but it does matter what the church practiced in the New Testament. Our authority must come from the Bible; not traditions of men. So much of what we find in religion today cannot be found in the Bible but the pages of man’s tradition.
The faith of many is running on tracks invented by man centuries old. In order to be found faithful to God we must return to the Book and to establish every word upon the precepts of the original pattern. Holding to the religious traditions of men will make void the word of God. The word of God alone is truth (John 17:17) and the traditions of men will fail (Matthew 15:13-14).