Summary: God is more interested in who we are than how we look.
Apprenticing Under the Master January 29, 2006
How do you judge your spiritual health?
When I was Pastor of Parkdale Neighbourhood Church, we had a woman that was always questioning here relationship with God. She struggled with mental illness, and with not just a few behavioral difficulties. There were times when she would be racked with guilt and doubt about her faith. She also had the spiritual gift of tongues, so when she was lying in her bed at night attacked by doubt, she would speak in tongues just to make sure that the Spirit was still there and had not left her.
How do you test your spiritual health? How do you Judge others’ spiritual health?
In Jesus day the Pharisees and Scribes test theirs and others spiritual health by how closely they followed the ritual law of Moses, as well as the traditions that were handed down that were supposed to help you follow the law.
They had traveled all the way out into the Sea of Galilee to put this new teacher to the test. When the renewal was in full swing out at the Airport Christian fellowship, there were often the “back wall judges” that would show up. These were usually pastors who had heard about the renewal and had come to see what they were doing wrong.
The Pharisees and Scribes had come for the same reason. They stood at the back of the crowd with their arms crossed and waited until this Jesus did something wrong. They only had to wait until lunch.
The Jews had a practice of ritually washing their hands before they ate. It only took a palmful of water, but it was to be sure that they would not be ritually defiled by anything as they ate. It wasn’t from the Bible, but it had become the common ritual practice amongst religious Jews. The disciples didn’t do it!
So they confront Jesus “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”
Jesus seems to be bit fed up with their attacks and he attacks back. He accuses them of two problems.
1) Ritual over Relationship
The hand washing that the Pharisees were concerned about had nothing to do with disease. It was about being ceremonially clean. The Old Testament Law described many different ways that a person could become ceremonially unclean – touching a dead body, giving birth, having mould in your house… If any of these things happened to you, you were barred from temple worship until you had been declared “clean” once again There were rituals and time periods for becoming “clean” once you had become “unclean.”
The leaders of the people had added rituals to the ones written down to help people avoid ritual defilement. After many generations of practice, these traditions were seen to be as much God’s law as the things that Moses wrote down. The ritual washing of hands before the meal was one of these traditions
We do that by seeing cultural things like Sunday School, Sunday worship at 11 am (or so), the shape of our service as coming straight from God’s word.
Jesus doesn’t explain the disciples actions, he attacks the Pharisees’ hypocrisy. He says, “Isaiah was prophesying about you when he said
“these people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far away
Their worship is a farce,
For they replace God’s commands with
their own human teachings”
The Pharisees were more concerned with looking pious than being pious.
They were more concerned about being right than being righteous.
Jesus doesn’t mind that they hold to their traditions, but they do so while ignoring the important parts of the religion.
He says to them in Matthew 23:23-24,
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
Do we do this?
We are not much into ritual as a church. When it comes to high church and low church, you can’t get much lower than us! But there may still be some rituals that we base or faith on instead of a heart that is close to God.
Do we say, “I go to church, I read my bible, I raise my hands in worship, I get into the songs, I must be a good Christian!” when there are bigger issues in our life that we are letting go? Do we judge others for not following our rituals rather than praying that their heart would be right with God?