Matthew 15:3 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Matthew 15:3, NIV: "Jesus replied, 'And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?"

Matthew 15:3, ESV: "He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?"

Matthew 15:3, KJV: "But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?"

Matthew 15:3, NASB: "And He answered and said to them, 'Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?"

Matthew 15:3, NLT: "Jesus replied, 'And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?"

Matthew 15:3, CSB: "He answered them, "Why do you break God's commandment because of your tradition?"

What does Matthew 15:3 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

A group of Pharisees—legalistic, tradition-minded religious leaders—have come all the way from Jerusalem to Galilee to discredit Jesus. They have pointed out that Jesus does not require His disciples to practice a specific form of ritual handwashing before eating. This traditional practice of the Jewish people was not, itself, a command of God. However, it was part of the extensive teachings of Israel's religious leaders. Adherence to those minute details was one of the ways groups such as the Pharisees measured their religiosity.

Jesus doesn't even bother to address the main accusation. Jesus is not falling for the rhetorical trap: explaining why He breaks a tradition which is not part of godly command. Instead, Jesus flips the table on these Pharisees and asks why they break an actual command from God for the sake of a tradition!

The following verses will spell out what command and tradition Jesus is referring to. Among the dangers of tradition-minded religious practice and legalism is missing the actual instructions of God, including the intent behind those directives. In the example Jesus gives, a command to care for other people has been neutralized by human legalism (Matthew 15:4–6).