Sick of Religion? Week 4: Devotional Day 4
DAY 4 – Thursday
Mark 2:18-20; Matthew 6:16-18
Do you see yourself in the grumbling attitude of the people? I know I can! Where are you grumbling about religious traditions or practice instead of rejoicing in people coming to know Christ?
Many readers don’t know that the Pharisees were actually a reform movement in Jesus’ time. Their aim was to fastidiously obey the Mosaic covenant that God had delivered to them, and that Israel had tragically and repeatedly broken many times in the past, in order that God would deliver them from the rule of the Romans and restore their nation to them. They thought that if they did it right this time, and led the nation in obeying the law, then God would listen and restore their fortunes. That’s exactly what the Old Testament seemed to say, after all. All that to say, their sorrow and mourning was ostensibly sincere. The problem was, you get the sense that they treated God’s law as a set of checklists that would appease God, instead of a way of relating to God. They took that mentality and went overboard, adding laws to the laws just to make sure they didn’t even get close to breaking them. Being human beings, it wasn’t long before making sure God thought they were good and worthy people mutated into making sure other people thought they were good and worthy people.
It’s interesting to me that Jesus doesn’t slam fasting itself. He’s really just talking about the motives of why we fast. This is evident from the when Jesus gives guidelines for fasting in Matthew. There, he points out that fasting is for God’s sake, not anybody else’s. In other words, the right way to do fasting is to do it as a means to know God.
I remember a distinct phase in my own life when I very diligently woke up early in the morning, prayed, and read my Bible, because it was the right thing to do. I was very diligent… and very judgmental of those who weren’t. And, when I was finally honest with myself, I had to admit I was miserable and ultimately no closer to God. In the end, my diligence was really about comparing myself to others and proving my worth to God.
Here’s a good litmus test for whether your religious practices are about making space for God or about comparing yourself to others: are you miserable and judgmental? Or do your practices bring you the fruit of God’s presence, e.g. love, peace, joy? Take time to evaluate your motives today.