Traditions, Habits, and the Heart


In today’s passage, Jesus says, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” Over and over again in Scripture, we see God desiring us to turn our hearts toward him. This is a moment-by-moment struggle for us as believers, but the amazing part of this struggle is that we have the power to overcome it every time if we rely on the Holy Spirit who is within us.

  • As you go to God’s Word, ask him to open your eyes so you can see God more for who he is and less for who you have made him out to be.


1 Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, 2they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. 3 (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, 4 and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) 5 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6 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; 
7 in vain do they worship me, 

teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

8 You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

9 And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)— 12 then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


  1. What are some traditions, habits, or spiritual practices that you take for granted in your life?

Where do you see yourself putting your habits, traditions, and even your spiritual practices ahead of God’s direction and his Word?

  • God wants our hearts turned completely toward him. Why do we struggle so mightily with this truth? Why does it seem easier to rely on the things we do?
  • What do you believe life would be like if you were being led by God throughout your entire day? How do you believe you can make progress in this direction?


God is our perfect Father and loves us more than anything we could ever imagine. He does not give us his Word as a rulebook to follow or a tradition to uphold. He gives us his Word to transform us from the inside out. It is only when our hearts are being led by God that we can truly rest, knowing we are being led by the only perfect leader.

  • Talk to God about some of the traditions or behaviors you tend to trust in or depend on instead of him.
  • Ask God to incline your heart in such a way that you turn toward him more and more throughout your day.