Matthew 15:8,9 – This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”
Sitting at the feet of Rabbi Jesus is a wonderful thing and the truth of his word can bring so much hope and comfort and joy. But woven between the miracles, the healings and the amazing stories of faith, there are also hard truths. We all love to hear the positives but we must be just as willing to hear of our failings. We don’t always get it right, of course we don’t, but we need to have the courage to address where we are going wrong.
This lesson from Jesus is about lip service and vain worship. It’s about getting caught up in the rituals and archaic rules of ‘church’ written by man and most probably mourned by God. Going to church on Sunday becomes, for some, just something that is ‘always done’, but this is what angers Jesus so much when being questioned by the Pharisees and scribes. Their religious activity was all for show and their holier-than-thou talk was pure lip service. Their hypocritical nature seemed to know no bounds and Jesus called them out on it. He could see through the bluster straight into their hearts which revealed that God’s ways were a distant speck.
I am guilty of lip service and vain worship at times. I say, “that was a great service” and yet go on without allowing it to change me in any way. I sing the song on the overhead but find that I’m so concerned about the speed or tempo being wrong that I lose the reason for singing. This is so far removed from true worship. Jesus said, “the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.”
When we fail and get things wrong, it’s easy to justify it by thinking, ‘well, I’m only human’, but I don’t think that’s entirely acceptable for the child of God. Our first response should be, ‘I’m sorry Lord’. As I said at the start, we need to be willing to acknowledge our failings and have the courage to address them because the Lord deserves nothing less than our honest best. Be true to God and don’t be afraid to ask him to show you your failings.
It is only in acknowledging our weakness and our shortcomings that we can benefit from his strength – and he wants to strengthen you. He wants to draw your heart back to him, and him alone, in truthful worship.