5 So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked him, “Why don’t your disciples follow our
age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.”
6 Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
7 Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’
It's quite easy for church leaders to get wrong views of people. Someone that regularly attends church, gets involved in the ministry, is generally pleasant and cooperative; is more likely assumed to have a vital personal relationship with Jesus. Flip the coin around and we find ourselves coming down hard on the awkward and shy believer who was trouble fitting in and exhibits very unorthodox ways of doing stuff and interacting with others. But we later find out just how wrong we were to misread the situation, the person; 'having judged the book by its cover.'
Our nature tends to lean on what is rather easy; to exist on a sort of autopilot spirituality. Living by faith, on the other hand can be exhausting. A lazy faith makes us live off the spirituality of others. This is not to make a judgement about whether or not others are Christians by their outward appearance. That's the point exactly, not to rely on a superficial and often shallow, hurtful assessment of others. Rather, it is to accept the possibility that in all their sermon hearing and rostered duties and robust singing, there might not be much else going on at a deeper level.
Is this concept a bit too cynical? Probably not, if we avoid forming firm conclusions and simply look at the possibilities. If church members are not forming deeper personal relationships with God, then all the other activity is at risk of falling into the category described by our text.
Encouraging people to be more involved in the church is a good thing but that must be accompanied by another good thing: encouraging them to go deeper into the life and love of Jesus. This applies to both leaders and congregants. It is so easy to live off the buzz and activity of church life, and sponge off from the faith-walk and leadership of others. There is always much more work involved, so much more to work out for ourselves.
But we are admonished in Scripture to work out or salvation, not for it, then coast through the remainder of our earthly journey on the faith steam of those around us. As a royal priesthood, each individual believer is responsible for their personal walk and relationship with their Saviour and with their fellow priests in the Lord.
May our spiritual goal not just to want to appear to be a follower of Jesus, but to desire to truly follow Him.
May your week be blessed,
In Christ's service,