I imagine Jesus is speaking these same words to us today:
Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the market-places, and to have people call them rabbi.
We are so proud of our spiritual disciplines. Some of us tithe, or have daily devotional time, or are in worship every single Sunday. We do the things we’re “supposed” to do – isn’t that what God wants?
According to the Old Testament, the answer is No. Or, at least, not necessarily.
Rob Bell, in “Sunday,” compares God’s response to our empty rituals to his experience of giving his wife flowers. If he brings home flowers, and her face lights up, and he says “Well, you’re my wife. It’s my duty” or “I thought you needed them” or “They were right there, it was easy, I wasn’t really thinking of you.” Does she still even want the flowers?
How often do we – do I – do this to God? Here God, I’ve got my kids in worship – it doesn’t matter if I yelled at them to get them here, right? Here God is my 10% – but I’m going to use the other 90% on whatever *I* want (sweatshop labor or environmentally unsustainability be darned). I go to church every week – it doesn’t matter that millions of people are starving and I don’t do anything to help them – I’m still good, right? After all, we read the right version of the Bible and exclude the right people and decorate using the right liturgical colors…
Does God even want our flowers?
When our hearts aren’t in it, when we don’t really love God and our neighbor…does God even want our our worship, our tithe, our deeds?
What do you think?