Is Your Heart in the Right Place?

Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ he is not to ‘honor his father’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’”
(Matthew 15:1-9)

Here we see our Lord chastising the Pharisees and teachers of the law for basing their religion on tradition and mere laws made by men rather than a relationship and a love for God. They practiced their own laws and imposed them with great emphasis on religious rites and ceremony. These religious leaders were filled with pride in their positions. Their criticism leveled at the Lord’s disciples was intended to merely elevate themselves. The religion of the Pharisees and teachers was one of behavior and manmade rules mixed with a feigned piety to appear spiritual, but in all reality it was supremely hypocritical. Their hearts were far from God. Consequently, their worship was futile, vain, and fruitless. Those who are most zealous for their own rules are commonly most careless with God’s desires. When man’s delusional inventions are tacked on to God’s Law and imposed accordingly, it makes for a mere human religion … and it gets you nowhere fast! These religious leaders had failed to realize God was aware of their hearts, motives, and deeds. They honored Him with lip service while their hearts remained far from Him. We might fool others–perhaps even ourselves–but we will never fool God who weighs our motives and judges the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts. These religious leaders are not too dissimilar to the hypocritical Israelites Jeremiah identified:

“Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, ‘We are safe’safe to do all these detestable things? Has this house, which bears my Name, become a den of robbers to you? But I have been watching! declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 7:9-11) “‘This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves! For when I brought your forefathers out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you. But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward.  From the time your forefathers left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their forefathers.’” (Jeremiah 7:21-26)

The worship of these religious elite ended in vanity. It did not attain the end for which it was appointed nor did it please God. If we do not worship God in spirit and truth it is for naught.

Take It to Heart

He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” (Luke 16:15)

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