“Are traditions bad?” That is sometimes a question that believers ask. Whether the person is practicing a certain tradition and wants to know if they are honoring God with it, or if the person wants to know whether a certain tradition being practiced by a certain group of people is honoring the LORD, it is always a good question to ask. When we say “tradition,” most Christians have a negative view of it, which is understandable. Religious traditions are usually associated with good works that some Christians believe are necessary for salvation, which is heretical. That part is going to be covered in this article. However, we need to understand that “traditions” are not inherently bad. Yes, there are bad traditions, but there are also good traditions. Before proceeding with this article, it is important to disclaim that this article is not meant to lambast or ridicule any other religion or denomination. Also, be sure to read the second part of this article since it is an important follow-up read.
As mentioned, traditions are not inherently bad; we are not just talking about religious traditions but also traditions outside religion. Outside religious traditions, there are plenty of bad traditions. For example, first-year students newly admitted to the university are often asked to do something humiliating because that has always been the “tradition” for all freshmen. On the other hand, there are also good traditions. One example is in South Africa. There are some communities in South Africa where, if someone has done something wrong, that person is taken to the center of their village. The village community or the tribe will surround that person for two days and speak about all the good things that person has done. There are also some family traditions in which they all gather at a certain time of year to be reunited with their relatives whom they haven’t seen due to living so far apart. Traditions are not inherently bad. Yes, there are bad traditions, but there are also good traditions.
This is the same when it comes to religious traditions or traditions that we practice in our Christian faith. There are bad religious traditions, but there are also good ones. Good religious traditions submit to the truth of God’s Word. During Christmas, some families have their own Christmas traditions. For example, 30 days before December 25, some families will begin doing one activity each night. One night may be reading a verse as a family, then talking about the Gospel and reflecting on it. Another night may be gathering and talking about what life would be if not for Jesus, or it could be going outside and giving gifts to homeless people, and sharing the essence of Christmas with them, which is Jesus. Those are religious traditions, but they are not necessarily bad; in fact, with the example of the traditions mentioned above, you are reminded of God’s grace and mercy in your life, for which you ought to be grateful. Some church communities also have a tradition of honoring someone if it is that person’s birthday. They might celebrate the person’s birthday and eventually gather around the birthday celebrant and honor them by speaking of the things that they love about the celebrant and how much the celebrant has blessed them and then ending it all by praying for the celebrant. Good religious traditions remind us of God’s faithfulness, mercy, and grace in our lives, increase our gratefulness towards God, motivate us to pursue God and have intimacy with Him, point us to God, and so much more. There are many benefits that good religious traditions can give in our spiritual journey.
However, we need to understand that there are boundaries. Traditions are man-made, and though not inherently bad, they are still made by us. Those traditions are not where our faith is hinged. If we forget that boundary, traditions can become bad, regardless of whether they are bad or good religious traditions. Religious traditions become bad if we elevate them to be of the same importance or authority as the scriptures or the Word of God. The scriptures and the Word of God are God-breathed, whereas man-made religious traditions, whether good or bad, are not (All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. 2 Timothy 3:16–17). Make sure to read the second part of this article that addresses this particular topic in more detail.