The Hypocrisy of External Religion

And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat. And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that he had not first washed before dinner. And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also? But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you.

Luke 11:37-41

Those who claim Jesus would ignore the sins of those with whom He would fellowship need to take a closer look at this passage! This is one of the most scathing rebukes of the sins of the Pharisees to be found in Jesus’ ministry.

The Pharisees had an inordinate focus on outward conformity to the law. They believed that their practices and ceremonies gave them the purity they needed to be justified. In doing so, they often neglected those around them. We saw this in the example of the Good Samaritan. The Priest and the Levite were “too busy” to help the man in need. They felt their religious practices were more important than their fellow man.

Jesus strongly rebukes this notion and says that it is not the things from the outside that defile a man. He explains that our corrupt nature is not created by corrupt actions but rather the other way around. We do not become sinners by committing sins. We sin because we are sinners by nature. Therefore, outward conformity to religious practices will never purify us from our sins.

The law is good because it shows the holiness of God, but it was never intended to be a standard to be met for salvation. 

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Romans 3:20

The purpose of the law was to show us our need for a Savior. The Pharisees saw no need for a savior because they thought they were justified by their works. In focusing on their personal salvation, they ignored the spirit of the law which was to love God and their neighbor.

Christians today do the same thing in various ways. One of the worst ways we do this is when our worship is based on self. If we are more concerned for our own benefit than blessing others, then we have missed the point. One of the biggest deceptions of the world that taints our discipleship is “self love.” Jesus taught self sacrifice.

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

James 1:27

One of the best ways to keep ourselves unspotted by the world is to focus on helping others rather than doing things, including practicing religion, for our own benefit.

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