Culture, Traditions and Kingdom Leadership
“You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’ … thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” Mark 7:8-10, 13 ESV
Cultures and traditions associated with them are constantly changing. What is important and vital today from a cultural perspective, tomorrow will seem irrelevant or secondary to something else that is now the topic of the day. In contrast, the Word of God is trans-cultural and eternal.
In Jesus’ day the issue in question was honoring parents and the tradition of Corban – dedicating to God certain personal assets that could (should?) have been used to care for one’s parents as they age, thus fulfilling the commandment of honoring them. Let’s make several observations from the above passage and see how this applies for Kingdom leaders today.
First we see that Jesus authenticates the authorship of the passage to Moses. We also note that He says this is the inspired Word of God, not just some good ideas that Moses came up with. And Jesus says that the leaders of the day were nullifying the Word of God by their teachings and cultural traditions.
The religious leaders of the day had allowed their cultural teachings and traditions to void the commands of God. Culture had taken precedent over God’s Word. Jesus rightly rebukes them for such poor leadership, calling them hypocrites and worshipers of God in appearance only (see verses 5-7).
As Kingdom leaders we bear a heavy responsibility to hold to the truth of the Word of God and not allow the ‘traditions’ of our culture compromise or mute the commands of God. It’s a ‘high wire act’ with seemingly no visible ‘net’ beneath us as we teach and lead in an increasingly hostile environment. We need wisdom from above to do this well (see James 1:5).
Don’t let the ever changing culture and its corresponding values compromise the truth of God’s Word. Yes, be sure to be sensitive and contextualize where possible, just don’t compromise the truth. Keep your focus on the eternal. What is important today will be gone tomorrow as another topic moves to center stage and we will find ourselves focusing on culture rather than teaching the truth of God’s Word.
When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 2 Kings 6:15-16 ESV
Cling to the truth, listen and observe your cultural context carefully, accommodate where possible, but never compromise! God has your back!