One evening, as I was leaving our seasonal Winter Shelter, one of the guests asked me of my perspective on religion as compared to certain practices he had observed. Part of my response to him was that religion — as it is expressed in the Scriptures — is not merely ritual, but is practical. It relates to accepting God’s authority for life, good living and helping to meet the needs of others. The questioner then responded, “You are doing that.”
Someone has said, “A person’s most useful asset is not a head full of knowledge, but a heart full of love, an ear ready to listen and a hand willing to help others.” [original source unknown]
The fact that living a life pleasing to God is more than ritualistic observance is made clear through various passages of Scripture. For example, in response to a questioner seeking to justify himself (Luke 10:29), Jesus told the parable of the good Samaritan. (Luke 10:30-35) The priest and the Levite appear to have been too focused on their ceremonial cleanness to help one who had A REAL NEED. To press the point we read. . .
“(36) Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” (37) He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “YOU GO, AND DO LIKEWISE.”” (Luke 10:36-37 ESV)
On another occasion, when Jesus’ disciples were accused of plucking heads of grain while walking through a grainfield on the Sabbath, Jesus reminded the
faultfinders of David and his men having eaten the bread that was only lawful for the priests to eat. That bread was there was to MEET THE NEED at the time. (Mark 2:23-26) By the time of Jesus’ walk on earth, the “doctrines” of work on the Sabbath had been meticulously defined by the teachers of the law. However, in addressing the practicality, Jesus went on to state. . .
“(27) And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”” (Mark 2:27 ESV)
There are a number of other places Jesus addressed what was done on the Sabbath when He Himself was accused of healing on the Sabbath. In those cases Jesus drew attention to what His accusers were willing to do when it came to their own personal property (i.e. Matthew 12:11-12), exposing more interest in themselves than in being willing to reach out to meet the REAL NEEDS around them.
Perhaps one of the most concise and clearest statements comes from James where we read. . .
“(27) RELIGION THAT IS PURE AND UNDEFILED BEFORE GOD, THE FATHER, IS THIS: TO VISIT ORPHANS AND WIDOWS IN THEIR AFFLICTION, AND TO KEEP ONESELF UNSTAINED FROM THE WORLD.” (James 1:27 ESV)
Living a “religious” life before God and man is both practical and holy. Purity of life is an issue to be taken very seriously. However, our interaction with others and willingness to MEET REAL NEEDS is also of extreme importance. Are we not glad we have a Heavenly Father aware of and willing to provide for both our spiritual and physical needs? May we be mindful of that with regard to others as we live through each day God provides.
Have a great day PUTTING THE ASSETS OF HEART, EAR, AND HAND TO WORK TO THE GLORY OF GOD! – Carl Hanson
(“teEn-MAIL” is sent out daily by Carl Hanson, preacher for the Church of Christ in Port Townsend, Washington, USA, located at 230 A Street, Port Townsend, WA 98368. Come visit us if in the area. http://www.porttownsendchurchofchrist.org)