One of my favorite lines from Mark Twain’s classic, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, is “The less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it.” Sadly, Twain was referring to pastors and their tradition of being long-winded!
Traditions are funny things. Often, we cling to them without the slightest knowledge of heir origins or significance. Exhibit A: the title of this post. Brides may be told they must have the old, new borrowed, and blue but few could explain why.
For further evidence and a bit of humor, consider the following odd, yet sadly true, traditions that are still kept to this day.
- La Tomatina – For over 70 years, on the last Wednesday of August, the residents of Bunol, Spain take to the streets and pelt each other with tomatoes in the world’s largest food fight. It’s estimated that over 300,000 pounds are thrown, all to the great delight of the townspeople and tourists. Kind of makes snowball fights seem lame, doesn’t it?
- The Burning of the Goat – This tradition has roots that date back hundreds of years. I’ll just let the first paragraph from the linked article speak for itself: Every year in Sweden, a town celebrates the start of the Christmas season by putting up a giant straw statue of a goat. Then they wait—and sometimes even bet—on whether the goat will make it to Christmas. Because the town of Gävle [say: yeah-vleh] has another, very different, Christmas tradition: every year someone tries to burn down the goat.
- The Duke of Wellington and His Traffic Cone – This is my personal favorite. In Glasgow, Scotland stands a beautiful, and extremely tall, statue of Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington. The statue has been there since 1844, but sometime in the early 1980’s, some unknown prankster(s) placed a large orange traffic cone upon the grand duke’s head. City officials came to remove it only to find another cone on the statue a few days later. Even today, the tradition of replacing the traffic cone (without getting caught) each time the previous one is removed continues. If you visit Glasgow today, with a bit of luck, you’ll be able to see what has been named as one of the “Top 10 most bizarre monuments on Earth.”
Isn’t it funny that in each of these cases mentioned, there is no clear reason for the tradition to exist, and yet exist it does – in spite of multiple attempts to stop them. Take a second to scroll back to the top to reread Twain’s quote. Have I proved him right?
The point to ponder today is this: How often do you stop to consider why it is you do the things you do? We each have our own little habits, customs, traditions, and rituals, but do we know why and for whom we do them? Not all traditions are necessarily bad. Actually, some were instituted by God and therefore holy and praiseworthy! But we often don’t realize that many of the things we faithfully hold on to and observe are actually keeping us from experiencing new and better things that God has for us.
Take a moment and read the following passage:
On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” And Jesus answered them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?” And he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” (Luke 6:1–5, ESV)
Instead of taking time to understand the true purpose of the Sabbath, the Pharisees had become too worried about keeping the tradition. Because of their hardened hearts, they missed experiencing the true blessing of the Sabbath with the One who was, and is, Lord over it – Jesus Christ.
Today, determine not to cling to doing things a certain way just because you’ve always done it that way. Be willing to let God show you what old ways need to be removed from your life so that He might lead you to something new.