I love to be critical of overly religious people. I figure if Jesus was so hard on them, we can be too, right? Eugene Peterson, in his Message translation of the Bible gives us a vivid and even disturbing picture of Jesus’ words to the Pharisees in Luke chapter 11:
“I know you Pharisees burnish the surface of your cups and plates so they sparkle in the sun, but I also know your insides are maggoty with greed and secret evil. Stupid Pharisees! Didn’t the One who made the outside also make the inside? Turn both your pockets and your hearts inside out and give generously to the poor; then your lives will be clean, not just your dishes and your hands.”
What if these words are for us too? In what ways do we say, “I’m following the big rules so I’m good,” only to miss the heart of Jesus for our lives? How many times have we differentiated ourselves from “those people” who “really need Jesus?”
Though these words to the pharisees are harsh, as I read them I hear the heart of Jesus calling us to lay down unnecessary burdens that we are carrying in our souls. We’re tied up and bound by the way we think about religion. He’s calling us to freedom from the heavy burden of rules-based living and into Spirit-filled, joy-filled life.
God, show us today how we’ve become like Pharisees. We repent of the ways that we pay more attention to what others think of us than we have to the poor, the hurting, and the broken right in our own back yards. Teach us to love like you love, and to live into the freedom you’ve already given us. As we discover your “true religion,” let us find the life that is truly life.
Grace and Peace,