One of the main themes of the musical Fiddler on the Roof is “tradition.” There is a song that begins with those words, “Tradition, tradition! Tradition!” In Judaism, tradition is paramount even over the Word of God. It was this with which Jesus had a serious problem. The Pharisees and scribes had over the years added their own traditions (supposedly oral instructions from God that Moses never bothered writing down), as well as pagan Babylonian Mystery traditions (learned during the Babylonian captivity) to the Word of God. Instead of studying the Tanakh or Old Testament, they chose to write down their own oral traditions and commentaries and then each generation studied those instead of strictly studying the Tanakh, as they felt one could not understand the Scriptures without the insights and teachings of the “great rabbis.” The Mishnah and the Talmud became more important than the Torah (the first five books) or the Tanakh.
Jesus had this to say about their traditions. [The following two passages relate the same event.]
Matthew 15:1-9 “Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
Mark 7:5-13 “Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”
Notice that the Pharisees themselves state that they expect Him (and everyone) to follow the traditions of men. Jesus replies that they are not only rejecting, but also transgressing the commandments of God by holding to their traditions. They are making God's commandments of no effect, or null and void by their traditions, and even worse they teach their traditions to the people as doctrine in place of God's Word. Their traditions have superseded God's commandments and laws. They have set themselves up as a higher moral authority than God. Jesus also uses Scripture, or God's own words to point out that God has said that their worship of Him is in vain, since they are only teaching man's laws, not His.
In this particular passage, as an example of their hypocritical heart condition, Christ relates their tradition regarding the care of their parents, for the Pharisees had by their traditions given themselves a loophole to taking care of their parents, as God had commanded. They would “consecrate” their goods to the temple as Corban which meant it was designated as a gift for the treasury of the temple and thus could not go elsewhere, but they arranged that they could hold onto it as long as they wanted and give it when they wanted, for there was no prescribed time limit to have to fulfill the vow. So essentially they could have it done upon their death or if preferred, the gifting could expire upon their death, making it null and void, so that it could become an inheritance. This enabled them to keep their money, and nobody could say anything to them about it, for there was (deliberately I assume) nothing forcing them to take action upon their word. It was a phony promise to the temple and a way of ignoring their parents' needs. It is kind of like our politicians today. Plenty of promises, giving themselves raises and nice retirements, etc. and keeping what they owe the people they represent, from the people. History repeats itself.
Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites over and over for their multitude of traditions and man-made laws which they inflicted upon the people. Note the verse above in Matthew 15:7-8 “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” There are many more verses where He is referring to them either directly or indirectly as hypocrites.
Matthew 6:2 “Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”
Matthew 6:5 “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”
Matthew 6:16 “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.”
Matthew 16:1-3 “The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?”
Matthew 22:15-18 “Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.......But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?”
Matthew 23:13-15 “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.”
Matthew 23:23-29 “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,”
Matthew 24:51 “And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Luke 11:42-44 “But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.”
Matthew 16:3b-4 “O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas ”
Luke 12:56 “Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?”
Luke 13:15 “The Lord then answered him, and said, Thou hypocrite, doth not each one of you on the sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?”
Jesus had a few other choice names for the Pharisees and scribes other than hypocrites. He also calls them vipers, fools, and He says how they are blind and an evil and adulterous generation and wicked within.
Matthew 3:7 “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”
Matthew 12:34 “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”
Matthew 12:38-39 “Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: ”
Matthew 23:16-17,19 “Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor! Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?... Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?”
Matthew 23:33 “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?”
Luke 11:37-40 “And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat. And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner. And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?”
John 9:40-41 “And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also? Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.”
Lawyers also tempted Him and came under condemnation, although many if not most of the lawyers were also Pharisees. He accuses them of laying burdens upon people that were too great for them to bear, while they themselves did not practice what they preached. He also accused them of taking away the key to God's knowledge and while not studying themselves, they also prevented those who would study from studying.
Matthew 22:35-36 “Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Luke 7:30 “But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.”
Matthew 10:25 “And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Luke 11:45-47 “Then answered one of the lawyers, and said unto him, Master, thus saying thou reproachest us also. And he said, Woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for ye lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets, and your fathers killed them.”
Luke 11:52 “Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.
The Pharisees were always looking for a way to find fault with Jesus or tempt Him in some way. They sought to trip Him up so that they could accuse Him and put Him to death, as He was a thorn in their side with His flaunting of their traditions and showing the people that they were not the righteous leaders they claimed to be. It undermined their authority.
Mathew 9:10-11 “And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?”
Mark 2:16 “And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?”
Luke 5:30 “But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?”
Luke 15:2 “And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.”
Matthew 11:19 “The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.”
Luke 7:34 “The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!”
Matthew 9:34 “But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils.”
Matthew 12:24 “But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.”
Matthew 12:2 “But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.”
Mark 2:24 “And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?”
Luke 6:2 “And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days?”
Matthew 12:10 “And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him.”
Mark 3:2 “And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.”
Luke 6:7 “And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him.”
John 9:16a “Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day.”
Matthew 12:14 “Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.”
Mark 3:6 “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.”
Matthew 19:3 “The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?”
Mark 10:2 “And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.”
Luke 7:30 “But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.”
Luke 13:14 “And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. ”
Matthew 21:45-46 “And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.”
Matthew 22:15 “Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.”
Mark 12:13 “And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words.”
Luke 11:53-54 “And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things: Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.”
Matthew 22:34-35 “But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him,”
Matthew 16:1-3a “The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring.”
Mark 8:11-12 “And the Pharisees came forth, and began to question with him, seeking of him a sign from heaven, tempting him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and saith, Why doth this generation seek after a sign? verily I say unto you, There shall no sign be given unto this generation.”
Luke 5:21 “And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?”
Luke 16:14 “And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.”
John 7:32 “The Pharisees heard that the people murmured such things concerning him; and the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take him.”
John 8:3-6a “And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him.”
John 8:13 “The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.”
John 11:47, 53 “Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles..... Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.”
John 11:57 “Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should shew it, that they might take him.”
Matthew 20:18 “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death,”
Matthew 26:65-67 “Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death. Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands,”
The Pharisees wielded a lot of power over the people, and disagreeing with them meant making yourself a target and outcast. Because of this many people, including some of the chief rulers and Pharisees who believed, were afraid to confess Jesus.
John 12:42-43 “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”
John 7:47-49 “Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.”
Jesus warned His disciples about the Pharisees and their traditions and teachings.
Matthew 16:6, 11-12 “Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.,,,,How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.”
Mark 8:15 “And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.”
Luke 12:1 “In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”
Matthew 23:2-7 “Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.”
Luke 18:11-14 “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”
As can be seen from the many passages above, Jesus had absolutely no use for the traditions of men and those who upheld them as being higher than God's laws, commandments, or Word. This should be a warning to us, but it seems that many have not learned the lesson. Today a great number of churches and denominations teach their traditions, some of which are actually transgressions against God, in place of God's Word, yet do not see the parallel between themselves and the Pharisees. They mock the Pharisees as being blind and full of sin, yet are as blind and as full of sin themselves, putting the traditions of men before the Word of God. Just as the Pharisees measured a man's spiritual life as a Jew by how he kept their traditions, far too many churches, pastors, and just regular Christians measure a person's relationship with God through Jesus Christ by how well they observe the traditions of the church, even when the tradition might be a transgression of God's Word. Or they do the reverse and take freedoms that God has given as a blessing and turned them into sins. They call evil, good and good, evil just as the world is doing, yet are completely oblivious to it.
Recently I came across a saying which I cannot remember the quote exactly, or who said it, so I will paraphrase what I remember and add to it what I feel is needed to complete the thought.
When you find that your favorite and strongly held views clash with the Word of God, do not start debating it. If you do, a sense of self-righteousness will emerge and pride and hypocrisy may be the end result, rather than a learning of the truth.
Over the years I have attended a variety of different types of churches, whether as a visitor or congregant. The one thing that seems common to all of them is that each has their own traditions. Whether it is the liturgical church with all of the pomp and ceremony that goes with the ecclesiastical times of the year, a non-liturgical church which has no formal order to the worship service at all, or anything in between, they all still have their traditions or things which they feel are a necessary part of being a Christian and without those things, you either aren't a good Christian or aren't a Christian at all.
I recall, after moving to our present home, something that I saw when searching for a church to attend. I walked into the foyer of a local church and a huge sign over the door into the sanctuary said, “Visitors welcome, members expected.” And indeed they were. Members expected, that is. They had Sunday morning worship service and Sunday school, youth group, and Sunday evening services on Sunday, mid-week prayer service on Wednesday, revival services yearly, choir rehearsals weekly, meetings of all sorts, conferences, retreats, etc., etc., etc. The church was a constant flurry of activity, as was the day of worship. No rest for the weary. And the members were expected to attend all services or meetings which were universal, as well as those which were specific to them. In fact, church took up their whole life. Church was and is their spiritual life, their social life, their family life (or in some cases replacement for family), their financial dictator, their babysitter, their substitute for their parental duties toward their children's spiritual education, their substitute for personal evangelism, and in whole, their entire life. This particular church also had an academy, so the school sports meant that members should, as much as possible (to support the school) show up for those games, so it was their recreational life as well, not only with the school games, but with inter-mural church games. It also provided their entertainment in the form of school concerts and programs. It took a grave (pardon the pun) excuse, for instance death, to have your absence overlooked and not have it brought to your attention as a lapse. But I also noticed that most of the members were content to have their entire lives be controlled by and revolve solely around the church. It provided a safe haven for them to not have to extend themselves to reach out to the world. They barely interacted with the community at all. It was as if they were a closed and gated community. Visitors were really only welcome if they were ready to embrace the church and let it control every aspect of their lives. There were other understood requirements as well as the attendance requirements. No socializing outside of the ranks with the heathen, no attending non-approved colleges, and absolutely no participating in unapproved activities. Things such as no alcohol, no dancing, and other such rules were unwritten, but known to be the standard by which a person behaved or they were outright said to not be Christian and became outcasts of the membership. It did not take me more than one visit to decide I was not going to attend that church as a congregant.
I have heard from the members of this type of church, that the reason for these extra man-made rules is not only to prevent people from sinning, but that they believe the forbidden things are actually sin (which they aren't). They are under the impression that to do these things, which are not forbidden by God (such as have a glass of wine with dinner, go ballroom dancing, or women wearing slacks for example) will without question lead to abuse of the privilege, and therefore sin (such as drunkenness or lasciviousness), as of course people cannot be trusted to use their own judgment on the matter or have self-control. So the freedom was removed and rules were created and enforced to make sure that people did not ever get close to the sin about which God did warn us. This did not occur with this generation, this occurred many years ago and has been handed down as the doctrinal truth or position of this church denomination. Is this not exactly the reason the Pharisees of Jesus' day gave for their traditions? They added numerous and onerous rules on top of God's rules making people's lives miserable, and taught them generation after generation. And if people did not keep the rules, they were not in good standing with the clergy or considered a good Jew. It didn't matter that these Pharisees were, as Christ put it, white-washed sepulchers themselves, and doing sinful things behind closed doors. They lorded it over the populous and held themselves up as righteous (self-righteous) examples. So too do the churches of today.
It is not just the type of church I described above that has this problem. As odd as it sounds, that church says that salvation is by faith through grace with no works required, yet they have all these works and rules that they insist upon. There are other denominations which do not preach born again salvation, they preach works, and so people's lives are tied up with attending services, observing all the ceremonies of induction into the mysteries of God, doing the works the church offers or approves, praying the prayers that they are taught to pray for penance, making sure they give the required amount of money, and etc. etc. etc. It seems that at either end of the spectrum, as well as in between, the traditions of the church tend to be the most important thing. Reading, studying, knowing, and obedience to God's WORD seems to be, if not irrelevant, at least not all that important.
What is also of interest is that while the churches teach that if you do not adhere to their traditions, you will not only not be a good Christian, but you will be a bad witness, it is not the unbelievers outside of the church who look upon you as being a bad Christian or witness. It is the people within the church that judge you so harshly. I have found that by following God's rules alone, that when I witness I have more respect from people for not being a hypocrite, by not having added a bunch of rules of my own. They are presented with a God who is not the hyper straight-laced and joy depriving God that He is presented as being. They learn that He wants self-control and obedience, but that His yoke is easy, not burdensome when it is understood correctly. I never compromise God's Word by saying that a sin is not a sin, but I show why the sin is detrimental to their lives and why God forbids it. It is a much harder thing for a person to defend their traditions through Scripture, (since they are not defensible) and so that leaves a bad witness behind as them being a self-righteous hypocrite, for nobody is sin free, and people watch you to see what your life presents. If you have sin in your life, but hold yourself up as morally superior to God, you will not make a great impression. Self-righteousness is not something that impresses unbelievers.
God wants love, mercy, and obedience. While that may sometimes include taking a Christian to task for a bona fide sin that is taught in Scripture, it does not mean that we have the right to judge a person's relationship with Christ by our own traditions and viewpoints. God's Word is clear about sin and how to deal with it in the body. Beyond that, we should not judge others freedom in Christ, nor should we expect them to live up to our own man-made rules. Nor should we make our churches into social clubs and gated communities. We are to go out in the world and spread the gospel. That means we have to interact socially with unbelievers, as Christ did. We should not partake of their sins (and there is a distinct difference between sin and freedom in Christ) any more than He did, but we should be befriending them, so that they get to know our relationship with Christ, so that we can lead them to Him. We should not be accusing the brethren who are doing this of not being Christians, because they don't adhere to our traditions.
As an example of this, I know a pastor who decided to hold a Bible study at a VFW. The church had strict rules against alcohol, and this VFW had a bar (of sorts). Well, the pastor came under condemnation for being in the building. Seriously people? You condemned a pastor for trying to bring the gospel to our veterans just because he was in a building that housed some alcohol? It wasn't like he was serving it nor was it even available at that time of day. (Not that serving alcohol is a sin anyhow. Only drunkenness and alcoholism are the sins that would apply here and they didn't in this case.) It was a ridiculous accusation against him and it wasn't long before he gave up the Bible study. I don't know if that was because of the controversy and condemnation or the lack of interest, but no matter, it was wrong to condemn him bringing the gospel to the world. This is what bad traditions do. They get in the way of salvation.
Now that bad traditions have been discussed, it is important to recognize that there are God's traditions and rules, and they must be kept. We have only two ordinances or traditions. Baptism and the Lord's Supper. We should be observing those traditions, because God has told us to.
We also have rules for obedience. We should give of our money to the Lord (although each person is to determine in their heart what to give) because we are told to by God. We should gather with other believers for fellowship and worship, especially as the Day of the Lord approaches, but nowhere did God specify that it had to be in a church, or on a Sunday (I will get to this problem in a minute), or that it had to have a certain kind of order of service, or had to be multiple times a week. He just said to gather with other like-minded (that's a hard thing to find) believers to give us fellowship, corporate worship of Him, growth in knowledge as we study, and to support and help one another. We are to pray, and when two or more are gathered in His name, He is there too, but nowhere does it say that we have to attend the weekly prayer service on a particular night of the week. We should pray without ceasing. What pastors should be teaching on prayer is not the traditions of attendance, but the need to have a relationship with God where praying is akin to breathing. You do it automatically all the time without even thinking about it. It should be that effortless and continual. Prayer times with others is a bonus, but not a weekly mandatory requirement. The more you learn to make it a part of your life like breathing, the more inclined you would be to gather with others to pray. And you would not have to beat people over the head to put in an appearance for the sake of appearances. That is not being there because of a heart desire, it is merely fulfilling an obligation.
We have many other things we should be doing – witnessing, using our talents, working on bearing the fruits of the spirit, confessing our sins, and other things which God has told us to do. We are to be obeying the Ten Commandments. Now as mentioned above, I want to address one of those things. Most if not all Christians will agree that nine of those ten are things we absolutely should or should not be doing. We should have no other gods before Him, we should not take His name in vain, we should not make graven images, we should not kill, or commit adultery, or steal, or bear false witness or covet. We should honor our parents, and lastly the one commandment that tradition has taught us to sin against for practically two millennia, we are to keep the Sabbath holy. Man's tradition, NOT God's Word has said that we are to forsake the commandment of God (which is an eternal covenantal sign as well as a commandment) and adhere to man's tradition instead. If you do not believe this, then read my article on this here https://bibleconundrumsandcontroversy.blogspot.com/2011/02/sabbath-or-sunday.html. Man took a commandment of God, just as the Pharisees did, and rejected it and transgressed it replacing it with their own tradition and then made it into a doctrine.
The argument is made that people cannot be trusted to not sin, therefore rules must be made to create a hedge for people. This takes away the instruction that God gave us to learn to have self-control. How can a person learn self-control if they are never challenged to have to exercise it. These traditions keep people from growing. Then instead of preaching and teaching self-control, to work at a relationship with God that is so part of one that one doesn't know a moment without His presence, they preach against the objects of “sin”, such as alcohol, or dancing, or slacks on women, or buttons, or electricity, and the “sin” of not attending services or praying the requisite prayers for penance or whatever the so-called “sin” is. What they need to teach is how to grow in the Lord and study His Word, not just read it through a hundred times. Preaching rules only gets outer conformity to traditions. Preaching how to grow in a relationship with Christ teaches how to not sin against God's commandments by the heart's choice.