Day 4 of 21 Days of Prayer

I’ve been reading through the Book of Luke as part of my daily Bible Reading Plan and I’m struck with how often Jesus confronted the Pharisees about their religious piousness, critical spirits, and frankly, their hypocrisy.  It’s almost as if Jesus already knows that most of them aren’t going to get his message and are hell-bent on continuing their gross mismanagement of the Scriptures and their errant leadership.  Pharisees don’t seem to have much hope and Jesus seems to have very little tolerance for their pious ways.

While reading about these encounters I’m convicted about two things: 1) I never want to be lumped in with the Pharisees, and 2) What can I learn from Jesus about how to deal with those who come across pharisaical?  While considering this in respect to elevating my personal commitment and devotion to Jesus Christ, I’m convinced it is profoundly critical that religiosity never replaces relationship with the Lord.  I know in my own life, the tendency to become critical, especially in a spiritual context, is caused by inconsistency or a lack of focused, submitted, relationship with Christ and allowing myself to get caught up in rote religious activity.  It’s really the same for all of us.  If we’re not careful the “pharisee” in all of us can soon take over and we miss entirely what it means to truly accept,  follow, and serve the Lord.  As we see, Jesus doesn’t put up with Pharisees.  The only solution is, as Paul says, to consider “Everything else as worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ!”  Phil. 3:8.

My prayer today, and I hope your’s as well: “Jesus, may I never become pharisaical, but may I always be teachable, loving, and devoted to you.”

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7 responses to “Day 4 of 21 Days of Prayer

  1. Pastor Terry,
    Thank you for the reminder to focus on ‘relationship’ not ‘religion.’ This is a topic that I struggle with mightily at times!

    The one time that I am aware of that Christ displayed anger was when he overturned the money-changer tables (Matthew 21:12).

    My understanding of the issue is that Christ’s issue was not as much with the money-changers themselves as much as it was an issue of perversion of the system of sacrifices.

    Instead of being an act of faith and obedience to the Law that foreshadowed His crucifixion, the Pharisees were making money off the trade of sacrificial animals through what was essentially religiously sanctioned thievery. (At least that is what I gather from Matthew 21:13.)

    I’m just guessing that the Pharisees justified their practice as a ‘way to make forgiveness of sins readily available to the masses.’ In other words, their ‘errant leadership’ produced ‘gross mismanagement of the Scriptures.’

    Could you please help me with three questions that emerge?
    1) How do I distinguish between proper giving/tithing and religiously sanctioned thievery?
    2) What is the believer’s proper response when they encounter religiously sanctioned thievery?
    3) How can I root myself in my relationship with Christ and stay “teachable, loving and devoted to Him” and avoid being pulled into a cycle of self-righteous anger from such encounters (a.k.a. turn ‘all Pharisee’ myself)?

    Respectfully,
    Dave Quinlan

  2. Pastor Terry,
    Thank you for the reminder to focus on ‘relationship’ not ‘religion.’ This is a topic that I struggle with mightily at times!

    The one time that I am aware of that Christ displayed anger was when he overturned the money-changer tables (Matthew 21:12).

    My understanding of the issue is that Christ’s issue was not as much with the money-changers themselves as much as it was an issue of perversion of the system of sacrifices.

    Instead of being an act of faith and obedience to the Law that foreshadowed His crucifixion, the Pharisees were making money off the trade of sacrificial animals through what was essentially religiously sanctioned thievery. (At least that is what I gather from Matthew 21:13.)

    I’m just guessing that the Pharisees justified their practice as a ‘way to make forgiveness of sins readily available to the masses.’ In other words, their ‘errant leadership’ produced ‘gross mismanagement of the Scriptures.’

    Could you please help me with three questions that emerge?
    1) How do I distinguish between proper giving/tithing and religiously sanctioned thievery?
    2) What is the believer’s proper response when they encounter religiously sanctioned thievery?
    3) How can I root myself in my relationship with Christ and stay “teachable, loving and devoted to Him” and avoid being pulled into a cycle of self-righteous anger from such encounters (a.k.a. turn ‘all Pharisee’ myself)?

    Respectfully,
    Dave Quinlan

    • Wow- great questions David, and sincerely asked. To me, giving/tithing is really a personal matter and not something that we should feel pressured, or mandated by the church to do. The proper motivation should always be born out of a personal desire to be obedient to God’s Word, honor him with our best, and to live in his blessings. Regarding the response to “religious thievery” I’m not sure how you would contextualize this, but I can say that I give my tithes and offerings not because the church requires it or because it gives me certain rights, nor so I can hold the church accountable for how they use “my money.” Rather, again, my trust is in the Lord and in the fact that God will hold me accountable, as well as everyone else. Finally, the only hope any of us have when it comes to becoming pharisaical is to realize just how greatly God’s grace and mercy has been lavished on each of us personally. Despite Jesus’ strong words for these teachers of the law, it didn’t keep him from dying for their sins too. In the end, what proves Jesus to be Jesus and what keeps us from developing a self-righteous spirit is that Jesus loves, and gives unconditionally! That’s my potential too- in Christ.

  3. Pastor Terry, Thank you for your answers!

    The context I draw “religious thievery” from you actually mentioned as some of the examples of not being reasons to tithe. I have seen churches that, either explicitly mandated tithing, browbeat and used guilt to extract tithing, used peer pressure, or used overt emotional appeals to stuff the plate. Very “strong-arm” tactics.

    Most destructively, I have see the negative effect of “giving to get.” People that give (both money as well as time and effort) to a church, but then “expect God to fulfill a list of prayer requests” in return.
    Bitterness and anger are the most potent fruits of this misguided approach.

    When I feel the “pharisee rise up in me,” I will try to apply your advice to re-focus myself on the grace of my own salvation and respect that others are dealing with their own sin-complexes.

    Sincerely,
    Dave Q

    • Hey Pastor Terry,
      After a little more thought, I have another way to explain what I mean by “religiously sanctioned thievery.”

      First, I have to define “religion.”
      To me RELIGION is: any set of rules by which human beings attempt to gain the approval of their deity.

      To me, this is different than SPIRITUALITY which is: a relationship with the Maker and Creator of the universe.

      As you can see, my definition of religion accounts for the many different systems or sets of rules that mankind has adopted over the years. Christianity is a religion. Hinduism is a religion. Buddhism is a religion. Mormonism is a religion. Islam is a religion.
      Recently, I think a new swelling of two religions have been shaping world events. Radical Islam (self-explanatory) and the “religion of Green.”
      The Green movement is not a new religion, rather, it seems to be a reemergence and refining of old ones.

  4. The Green movement deifies nature, and uses different names like “the environment, the earth, etc.” but sets it above humans.
    It is not a revealed religion (with official spokesmen or holy texts that explain the tenets of the religion) rather, it is a mystery religion that each individual experiences on their own.
    But a set of rules emerges for adherents to the Green way of life which puts limits on human behavior and justifies taking action to stop others from harming nature.

  5. Religious thievery: Part 3
    Thievery is coercing someone to relinquish material possessions.
    The typical example would be if I brandished a weapon and threatened bodily harm to someone or their loved ones unless they give me what I want.
    They comply out of fear of bodily harm to themselves or their loved ones.
    With Religious Thievery, the weapon is replaced by the tenets of the religion. Out of fear for their immortal soul or for the souls of loved ones, people are coerced to relinquish some or all of their possessions.

    (Sorry about the disjointed posting, it seems I overran the character limit for these posts.)

    Respectfully,
    Dave Q

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