Do you like tradition? How many traditions do you keep? How many of them are traditions passed on from generation to generation? Do you know why those traditions started? Are you curious about the reasons for the tradition?
We follow all kinds of traditions. Some are patriotic. Some are sports related. Some are family. Some are religious. Traditions can be very good for us. They can provide a framework for our lives. They can also be foolish.
We have many religious traditions within the various denominations. But do you know how they were started? Are they biblically based? Some are biblically based, and some are not. Knowing the reason behind the tradition and why it is followed is key to observing the tradition properly, meaning with the correct mindset.
Since Ash Wednesday is fast approaching, let’s take a look at the tradition of the imposition of ashes. The Jews of the Old Testament would put on sackcloth and ashes as a sign of repenting their sin or calling out to God to rescue them. Sackcloth is the poorest of cloths and ashes represent the frailness of human life.
As the Christian movement got started, the tradition continued in much the same way until it was formalized into the tradition we have now. Ashes are put on a person’s forehead in the form of a cross. It represents both the frailness of humanity and the saving grace through the cross of Christ.
But notice Jesus’ words of caution in today’s passage. Without truly seeing the miraculous power of Jesus, what He has done for us, and choosing to follow Him, we are as lost as the cities He calls out. Going through the motions does nothing for us. It is the attitude of the heart and mind while observing the traditions that make them meaningful.
I pray we all seek to understand our traditions. I pray we choose wisely which traditions are relevant. I pray each one of us approach traditions with the correct attitude of heart and mind. Know the reasons behind traditions. Choose traditions wisely. Have the correct attitude of heart and mind when observing traditions.
Matthew 11:21-22 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.”