Put Your Heart In It
Read Matthew 15:8-9(ESV)
“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
Is it possible to act religious but not be a Christ-follower?
Did you know that the word “hypocrite” comes from the Greek word “hypokrites” which means “an actor”? In ancient Greece, it meant a literal stage actor who wore an actual mask. Now, it has a much more figurative meaning. We think of a hypocrite as someone who acts like someone or something they are not. They are putting on a metaphorical show and wearing a figurative mask. According to Mirriam-Webster, some modern definitions of the word are “a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs,” or, “a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion.”
In today’s verses, Jesus called out some hypocrites of His day. To do so, He quoted the prophet Isaiah. The NASB translates Isaiah 29:13 as, “this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.” Jesus used this Scripture to condemn the empty ritualism of many of the Jews. They did what Jewish tradition taught them, but their hearts weren’t in it. They weren’t really worshiping God.
In the case that Jesus was addressing in today’s verses, the Pharisees had called out Jesus’ disciples for failing to wash their hands before they ate. In Matthew 15:1, they asked Jesus: “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” Notice that they weren’t accusing the disciples of breaking God’s commandments, only for breaking religious tradition. God never gave them this law through Moses.
Jesus’ answer to them was, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God” (Matthew 15:3-6).
Many Jews were taking money that should have been dedicated to caring for their elderly or needy parents and were offering it to the temple instead. This had become not just an acceptable practice but one that made the giver look super religious because they gave so much to God. But God never gave them this command through Moses, either. God did give them the 5th commandment that explicitly states to honor your parents. The issue here is that the Jews had elevated their religious traditions and rituals over the commandments of God. Even worse, they did it to be noticed by men, not to please God. Jesus was not going to tolerate it. He knew they were not sincere in their worship of Him.
We can learn an important lesson about worship from Jesus’ words here. Jesus doesn’t care if we pay Him lip service, whether on social media or even from a stage if our heart isn’t in it and if our actions don’t back up our words. True worship is genuine, unpretentious, and based on God’s Word, not man’s.
If we live like the world and think only of ourselves all week but make a big show of going to church every Sunday, it is worthless in God’s eyes. We can throw a ton of money in the offering plate but if our motivation is to help our self-image instead of honoring the Lord, our offering is in vain. If we know a lot about God but we don’t really know God personally, how can we truly worship Him? And if we hold the standards and traditions of men higher than the Scripture our worship is just empty ritualism.
Friends, there is a right and a wrong way to do worship and it has to do with our heart attitude and motivations. If we are truly worshiping God, we are focusing our hearts and minds on who God is as revealed to us through His Word. As you go throughout this week, seek to worship the Lord—and make sure you put your heart in it.
Father, I confess that I often get distracted by worldly things when I worship You. Sometimes I just go through the motions or focus on empty religious activity and traditions instead of drawing near to You with my whole heart, soul, strength, and mind. Help me to focus on You and worship with the right motivations. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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