"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. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?” He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘ This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men - the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban”—’ (that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.” (Mark 7:1-13) (Emphasis added).
"Tradition" is important to many, many people! There are family traditions. There are cultural traditions. There are religious traditions. There are traditions that have a good foundation and others that were bad right from the start. There are traditions that are very meaningful and others that are just a shell, an empty representation of something long ago forgotten, or of something that no longer has meaning or relevance. Traditions are not inherently wrong, as far as we can tell. However, traditions become VERY strong. If you don't agree, try changing someone ELSE's tradition - many are viewed as "sacred", not to be challenged or questioned. Some traditions have an erroneous basis and SHOULD be stopped. But ceasing from following them may take great courage and may result in great ostracism. Some traditions were good at one time, rich with meaning and the stirring of memories that were good. But, over time, they have become something to which a subsequent generation does not relate and therefore it is burdensome and meaningless to them. In those cases, should the tradition continue? Maybe yes, maybe no.
There is an event recorded in Exodus 12 called the Passover. The nation of Israel was commanded to "observe" the traditional remembrance of that event. They were instructed to do so by none other than God Himself! Furthermore, we now know an important reason WHY God issued that command - because the annual observance, while in the minds of the Jews was rearward-looking to the great Exodus and deliverance from Egypt, but in the mind of God, the annual observance was forward-looking (prophetic), looking forward to the sacrifice of Christ, Who is our Passover, which would enable our deliverance from sin. So, an important distinction is - did God set the tradition in place, or did man? An important follow-up question to ask (which must be answered by studying God's revelation - the Bible) is - did God intend for that tradition, whatever it might be, to continue forever, or was it for an intended period of time only?
In the Scripture quoted above we should be able to clearly see that there are traditions which man has put in place that controlled peoples' lives and practices. The sad part is that these very things - things that were deemed to be "good things", "religious things", things that were done "for God", turned out to be hindrances, stumbling blocks, to actually doing what God really wanted! Notice several key points in the passage quoted above.
First, "This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me". Tradition has a way of bringing out hypocrisy - an outward show that does NOT reflect an inward reality.
Second, "in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men". What men think are acts of worship (by observing their traditions), God says are vain, which means empty, no substance, no reality. Furthermore, those practices (the ones that man contrived) are taught in such a way (either overtly or implied) that it is believed to be God's command when in fact IT IS NOT!
Third, "laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men". This is the epitome of turning one's back on God and entering into humanism - God's Word is set aside and man's word is given priority/superiority. This is ALWAYS a very dangerous thing to do.
Fourth, "you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition". A step worse than the one just before this. Rather than simply ignoring God's word (laying it aside), God's word is flat out rejected - in order that one might continue in his self-indulgent ways.
Fifth, "making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down." The end result of this downward progression (away from extolling AND obeying God's word) is practical atheism - acknowledging that God exists and acknowledging that He is God, yet living one's life as if there was no God - practical atheism!
If we consider a parallel passage in Matthew 15:2-3 we read: "Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?" Here, Jesus is accused of violating the "tradition of the elders". His response is clear that the tradition resulted in the violating of the commandment of God!
In Colossians 2:8-10 Paul warns and instructs: "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and notaccording to Christ. For in Him [not in the traditions] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power."
In 1 Peter 1:18-19 we read these words: "knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot."
Truth trumps tradition every time!
While many examples could be given, we have chosen one, just to illustrate the point. We will leave it to you and the Holy Spirit to discern other areas in your own life that may need to be examined. In many church services there is an "order" of things that is rigidly followed each and every week. It is stated that this is done to avoid confusion, and God is not the author of confusion. Sadly, this "order" becomes etched in stone and no one dares to alter the "sacred order". For many, this "order" has become a ceremonial tradition which binds people and we believe it can (although not always does) hinder the Spirit of God and lead to the "practice" of empty religion. Lack of rigid, repetitive structure does NOT equate to confusion. It IS possible to have varied order of doing things, yes, even to have some spontaneity, and to end up, not with confusion, but rather with an orderliness that pleases and honors God.
Is there "good" tradition? Yes! But it may not be what you are thinking.
Consider Paul's words:
In 2 Thessalonians 2:15 "Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle."
In 2 Thessalonians 3:6 "But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us."
We believe it is clear from the context that this "good" tradition refers to the example of a godly lifestyle which should be followed and passed on to others and passed down to subsequent generations - and that it does not refer to the ceremonial traditions seen in the earlier verses above.
In John 13:15 Jesus said: "For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you."
In Philippians 3:17 we read Paul's words: "Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern."
In 1 Thessalonians 1:7 Paul expresses the desire "so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe" and in 2 Thessalonians 3:9 "...but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us."
Paul exhorts Timothy along the same lines in 1 Timothy 4:12 "be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity."
Peter also, in exhorting the elders, focuses NOT on the traditions received from their fathers, but rather on being a godly example: "...being examples to the flock;" (1 Peter 5:3).