Summary: To clarify the confusion between being religious and being spiritual.

We are very religious but not too sure, if we are spiritual, what is the difference? Are they the same? On the other hand, do they have different meanings to convey?

We often confuse with both the terms, they have very different meaning to convey. In order to understand them better let us first look at the definition of the terms and then explore these ideas in the light of the scripture.

Religiosity, in its broadest sense, is a comprehensive sociological term used to refer to the numerous aspects of religious activity, dedication, and belief (religious doctrine).

Spirituality, something that in ecclesiastical (church perspective) law belongs to the church or to a cleric as such clergy, it is sensitivity or attachment to religious values or the quality or state of being spiritual.

Now let us read the passage in Luke for a better understanding and draw lessons for our life.

Luke 18:9-14

9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

13 "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

Jesus Christ shared this parable for those people who were looking down on everybody considering their own righteousness to be supreme. Then He brings for the comparison between two folks – one the Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisees are known for their religiosity since they follow the law literally taking away the spirit and the purpose of the law given to them. On the other hand, the tax collector is a simpleton who is considered a sinner.

The Pharisee made three strong statements (v. 11, 12) –

1. Superlative Comparison of his own self with the others

2 Corinthians 10:12

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.

This is an awesome scripture since the bible comments it is not wise to commend our own selves. We often think we are far better than others or simply because we compare ourselves with others as if we are the ideal lot. Let our comparison be to Christ and his ways – such a comparison will make us scary since we are no way near it. Generally, those who compare are often complainers they are never satisfied, they are religious and not spiritual. Life seems messy since we compare, when we compare we are more depressed. We see ourselves not as unique but in the light of the others. I remember my son came home with a less score in his subject and told the mother that his friend got lesser than he did. No one taught him to compare but he has learnt it on his own. If we consciously avoid comparison we will be not be religious.

2. Rationalized Rituals

Matthew 6:16-18

16 "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Jesus Christ has made strong comments on the basics of Christianity. The Pharisee who boasted about his fasting Jesus had something important to share, he says when you fast do not let others know you are fasting but be well groomed. Fasting is not a ritual rather it is a spiritual act to help the inner man receive strength from God. Fasting twice a week is more a ritual than a right act. With such a fasting if comparison and complain still exists the purpose of fasting has been in vain. In the Bible college I worked I had a colleague who will look obvious on his day of fasting. He will leave his shirt out and wear an old pant and bathroom chapels and students would immediately say that the teacher is on fasting. He has received the approval of the people but not of God. Some have said they were fasting every morning I wonder how that could be, since sometimes we do not have time for eating in the morning and that is not fasting – it is starving. I am sure we all have the experience of starving and not fasting. Real fasting is when you stay in the presence of God and spent time reading the Bible and praying earnestly.

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