Back when I was a boy, every fall when oyster season opened, we would load up and go down to the river to get oysters. When we got home the whole extended family, my grandparents, brother and sister, their families sometimes a cousin or two would gather around an outside fire and roast the oysters. Then newspaper was spread on an old table and everyone started shucking and eating. There was always cornbread and homemade hot pepper vinegar along with various other “fixings”. This marked the season for us just like thanksgiving or Christmas. I miss that tradition now that I am one of the last surviving members of that group and no longer live in close proximity to the coast. We don’t realize how precious those traditions really are until they are gone. I also remember a few traditions from that era that I’m glad are gone. I’m thinking of segregation and racism just to name two.

I’m reminded of a story I once heard about a woman that always cut her Easter baked ham in to two pieces before she cooked it. One day her husband asked her why she did it and she said it was because her mother always did it that way. On hearing this the husband calls up his wife’s mother and asked her the same question and she also replies ‘it’s because my mother always did it that way” The husband then rings his wife grandmother and asks her “what is the purpose of cutting the Easter ham into two pieces before cooking it”? The grandmother says “I never had a pan big enough to cook the whole thing”. Sometimes we just do things because that’s the way they have always been done. We stop even questioning why. It becomes so natural to us that if someone asks us why, the question is confusing to us. So it is sometimes with our christianity. We inherit a tradition from our elders in the faith and usually follow it until we die never stopping to consider if it is correct or not. Jesus warned us against this in Mark 7:6 through 9.

And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

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!

I confess that I have been a major offender in this area. In fact it’s taken me my whole life to to root out some of the doctrines of men that Jesus spoke of and replace them with the teachings of Jesus. I have a proposal for you. It’s sort of an experiment. What if we forgot everything we think we know about christianity and just read Jesus’ words and applied them to our lives starting with a clean slate? The book of Matthew isn’t very long. I have read it through in a single setting. It is the one book in the Bible that captures Jesus’ teachings best. In it he explains exactly what you must do to be saved. He explains what will happen at the end times and God’s expectations on the way we pray, the way we treat others and anything else we need to know to inherit eternal life. What do you have to loose except a bunch of unnecessary tradition by trying this. Jesus can’t possibly lead you astray, right? I’m not coming at you with a bunch of dangerous doctrine. I’m just asking you to let Jesus teach you. In Matthew 23:8-10 Jesus says.

But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ.

Did you get that? We are instructed by Jesus to only accept him as our sole teacher and instructor. You can’t get any plainer than that. That means anything that someone else teaches that Jesus didn’t teach is not God’s words period, unless it agrees totally with what Jesus taught. Only Jesus spoke with God’s own words. He taught us all things necessary to our salvation. No additions necessary. Please commit to reading a few pages of Matthew every night. Just start at the beginning and go on from there. At the end of each chapter ask yourself what Jesus said. Try not to interject anything taught by anyone else. I promise it can only do good things for you. Only the traditions taught to you directly from Jesus are worth holding onto and they are very much worth holding on too.

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