In recent years, I have heard, with increasing frequency, the term, “faith tradition.” What does this mean? Does our relationship with God depend merely on tradition? Is one tradition as valid as another? Are we free to follow whatever tradition suits us or switch to another tradition if we like it better? To base your eternal relationship with God on the shallowness of a “faith tradition” seems very dangerous to me.
On one occasion Jesus was questioned by the religious leaders of his day. They wanted to know why his disciples broke the tradition of the elders by not washing their hands before eating bread (Matthew 15:1-2). Jesus replied by asking them why they broke the commandment of God for the sake of their traditions. He explained, “For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,” he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition” (Matthew 15:4-6).
Jesus’ rebuke was clear.Their “faith tradition” was actually responsible for violating a direct command of God.
Jesus confronted this error by saying, “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men’” (Matthew 15:7-9).
Paul’s admonition to Timothy should remind us that there is a foundation for faith that far surpasses the changing character of human tradition. “From childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).
I do not want my relationship with God to be based on a “faith tradition.” I want to study the sacred writings so that I might know with assurance how I should live, work, worship, love and serve my Lord.