Lenten Day 19: Watch Out For That Old-Time Religion.

Today’s Lectio Divina: Luke 20: 41-47 (MsgB)

Then He (Jesus) put a question to them: “How is it that they say that the Messiah is David’s son? In the Book of Psalms, David clearly says, ‘God said to my Master, sit here at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’ David here designates the Messiah as ‘my Master’—so how can the Messiah also be his ‘son’?” With everybody listening, Jesus spoke to His disciples. “Watch out for the religion scholars. They love to walk around in academic gowns, preen in the radiance of public flattery, bask in prominent positions, sit at the head table at every church function. And all the time they are exploiting the weak and helpless. The longer their prayers, the worse they get. But they’ll pay for it in the end.”

Years ago a wise pastor told me this truth.

Whenever you find in scripture a place where God is asking His listeners a question, keep in mind that He’s not asking that question because He doesn’t know the answer!

So it is here with Jesus.

After a barrage of meaningless questions from those in the crowd who are only looking to trip up the Master, Jesus turns the tables on His detractors, asking them a puzzler that, quite honestly, boggles the mind. Especially if you have no concept of the timeless nature of God’s Kingdom; past, present, and future.

The truth of the matter is that these religious scholars of Jesus’ day are sadly outclassed when it comes to knowing God and the infinitely wise ways He executes His perfected will on planet earth. And if I might be so bold, this fact still remains true today. I don’t care how educated we humans might become in the things of God and the ways He operates His Kingdom rule and reign in this world, we should never find ourselves positioning that wisdom in such a way that it portrays to others that we know it all.

As a matter of fact, Jesus warns His disciples here to stay away from those in religious circles who seem to have it all together, claiming they are perfect spokesmen for the Almighty. Oh yes, the robes might be there. The many diplomas might be hanging on our walls. And the head positions in most of our organizations, both secular and religious, are assigned to men and women who appear to have their lives together, lording their wisdom over the lesser folks who have much less.

Now, please, don’t take my comments wrongly here.

I believe Jesus has placed many wise and well-educated men and women in a high position in His church over the last two thousand years and many of those individuals have truly had the heart of a servant and have served His church well. But Jesus calls it correctly when He states that there is something drastically out-of-order when those in authority abuse that power, and eventually think so highly of themselves, their words and deeds actually begin exploiting the weak and helpless in our midst.

A careful read of the scriptures finds that God’s people have an ongoing reputation for elevating religious activity like praying, fasting, and other spiritual disciplines, often at the cost of ignoring Kingdom ministry basics like comforting and praying for the sick, delivering folks from evil and darkness, feeding the hungry, and bringing much-needed justice to those in need.

In Isaiah’s time, we find this Old Testament prophet warning God’s people that they are guilty of fasting and praying in ways Jesus seems to speak of here in Luke. Like, Jesus, Isaiah interrupts the religious charade of deep spirituality going on in his generation, speaking these words of warning to those who would have ears to hear:

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Isaiah 58: 6-7

As I see it, every generation of God’s people, until the end of time, will need the occasional prodding our God brings to us through bold servants of the Kingdom. Men and women who will speak hard truths like what we see here. Hard words that will penetrate our hardened hearts. Difficult warnings that call us to stay away from old-time religion that is full of hypocrisy and selfish sin.

Thanks, Jesus. I need Your strong warning about religion once again today! Just because I sing about old-time religion doesn’t mean its the type Jesus would necessarily approve of!

My prayer: God, please protect me from the pride and arrogance that can develop inside me when I think I’ve arrived. Keep me humble, Lord. Holy Spirit, never allow me the luxury of thinking I’m above being questioned by Jesus. May any position I attain in leadership always be used to reach toward the weak and helpless ones, lifting up others who have little or no ability to help themselves. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: How have I not heeded Jesus’ warnings and bought into the ugly religious system Jesus is addressing in this passage? Have I allowed my heart to grow cold and self-consumed, thinking primarily only about myself at the cost of having a heart for others? Is the religious system I’m a part of portraying any of the warning signs Jesus speaks of here? If so, how can immediate changes be made so that we stay true to Jesus’ will for His followers?

So, what are you experiencing today as we are journeying through this Lenten Adventure?

Over a 48-day period (from Ash Wednesday through the Monday after Easter), you and I will be taking a deeper look at the stories surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus (especially the last week known as Holy Week) as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Our Lenten Journey home page for ease of use. 

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!

Click here to go onto the next Lenten session…

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