Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Teaching human ideas as commands of God.

Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law now arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They asked him, “Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.”

Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? ...And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,

‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship is a farce,
for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’"

I've been thinking a lot about this little phrase that Jesus quoted to these people: "they teach man-made ideas as commands from God" or as the NKJ says it: "And in vain they worship Me,Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” I wonder how much of what I believe and teach come from human ideas, more than God's Word. They are things that are deep in the "church" culture, but you can't really find them clearly in the Scriptures. They are beliefs that people teach as "essentials", yet the Bible doesn't even mention them. They are man-made, but we treat it as God-spoken.

Think about these ideas that are often treated as commands from God or doctrines, but clearly did not come from the Scriptures. Some of them are actually pretty funny.

  1. Christians shouldn't drink alcohol - even though Jesus and his disciples and the early Church clearly drank alcohol, so many people and churches treat this as the 11th commandment. The biblical command is "don't get drunk" and obviously consider your context so you're not "a stumbling block". But come on... drinking some wine with your family and neighbors at dinner time is more Christ-like than most of the other things we do.
  2. Tattoos are wrong - Ok, there's a mention of this in the O.T. but it's clearly a cultural command for that time and makes no sense in our day. No time to explain that here, but if you're going to treat that one as a command from God to us, then you need to treat the one before as one also: "Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard." Lev. 19:27. Good luck.
  3. You need to dress up or differently to go to church. Several things are wrong with this statement, but it's amazing how many people and churches emphasize church dress-code like it came from God. First of all, you would never find the term "go to church" in the Bible. We are the church, we don't go to church. Secondly, Jesus spoke and dressed in the language of the people. If that's a way you want to "honor" God by dressing up to "go to church", that's fine, but let's not treat it as God's requirement for church attendance.
  4. Worship Service Order - you're not doing things right as a contemporary church if you don't have 3-4 songs sung by a cool band, a 35 minute message, quick announcements, and an offering time during an upbeat song. Be careful to do it just like that or you're not doing it God's way--at least that's what I've heard. :)
  5. Daily Quiet Time & Journaling - do you remember the passage where Jesus is sitting by the mountainside and he said "you should open your Bibles daily in a quiet place and read a chapter from one of the Gospels. Then make sure to spend a few minutes in prayer and write your thoughts in a journal If you do these things you will be godly like me." Maybe we like thinking of "quiet time" as God's standard of godliness because it's much easier than actually imitating Jesus, who would often spend "all night in prayer", would walk in communion with God every minute of the day... I think it's very important to have quality daily time with God, but there's no biblical "quiet time" guide.
  6. Being Green - Don't get me wrong, I think it's important to be responsible with how we treat the earth and, we as a family and church, recycle properly. However, here in the Bay Area, being green is often treated as a command from God Himself and is often put as a priority even above humans. Often the people who want to "save the earth" are the same ones "destroying human life" by promoting abortion rights. Pretty backwards.
  7. Praying to saints or Mary, Infant baptism... - There are so many ideas like these in some denominations that are taught as commands of God, but are not consistent with His Word.
Do you know some things we do that would fall under the category of human-ideas, but are treated as God-commands? Think about, we're all guilty of doing it at times...
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