Devotional Reading from the Daily Common Lectionary: Matthew 23: 13-26
Text: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. (v. 23)
Several years ago I noticed that the tile in our bathroom shower seemed to be bubbling on the surface. I never saw anything like this before. Over the next several weeks the bubbles began to break and paint began to peel away from the tile, exposing 1950’s coral colored tile! The previous owner, in getting the house ready to sell, decided to paint the bathroom tile white in order to make it look more modern! They presented a false reality in order to sell a house!
I thought of this as I read today’s reading, especially verse 23. For as long as I can remember I have been attracted to that verse. Jesus criticized those who “play” or “pretend” to being faithful to God rather than doing the hard work of being a faithful. They are being “hypocritical”.
It is this hypocrisy that causes a lot of people to say that they are “spiritual” but not “religious”. It is people who say that they take Jesus seriously and tell you that you should take Jesus seriously but there seems to be little evidence that they take Jesus seriously in their own lives Monday through Saturday. They are the ones who gossip and “tsk-tsk” about others or never find a “church” that “feeds them spiritually”. They are the ones who are quick to criticize and condemn but the least likely to forgive. They are the ones of who U 2’s Bono once said in an interview, “I love Jesus; it’s Christians I can’t stand.” My wife is fond of saying that someone should not be surprised to learn that you go to church!
Religion is simply the discipline that helps us practice the teachings of Jesus and do the work of God’s Kingdom. When religion or the maintenance of an institution becomes an end in and of itself, it ceases to be Holy. If our religion does not challenge us to work for Justice and Mercy than it has, as Jesus said in another place, become nothing better than a white-washed tomb. Dead.
Lord, let my “religion” be alive and push me to do the work of Your Kingdom. Amen.