Summary: As we finish Romans 2 this morning, we’re going to learn that many believers today are “cheater Christians,” because they’re fooling themselves and others. Too many religious people have pretty packaging on the outside but have downsized the amount of sp

The Fatal Flaws of Religion

Romans 2:17-29

Rev. Brian Bill


I’ve been fascinated and frustrated about something for many years. Have you noticed how companies are shrinking the size of their products while keeping the packaging the same? The result is less product while the price stays the same or goes up. Marketing experts argue that consumers are more sensitive to price changes than they are to size changes so companies can get away with less quantity. Let me demonstrate.

• Cans of Coffee. Years ago, coffee was sold in 1-pound, 2-pound or 3-pound sizes. Without making the container any smaller, now the weight of some cans is only 11 ounces.

• Shampoo. Do you remember when bottles were one pint, or 16 ounces? Now, there’s less shampoo and more bottle. Notice how the cap at the top makes it seem like the bottle is bigger than it really is. This bottle is only 14.5 ounces.

• Dish Detergent. Initially the bottles shrunk because of the claim that the soap was concentrated. I’ve noticed over time that these smaller sizes no longer are referred to as concentrate; they’ve just stayed smaller while the price has not decreased.

• Orange Juice. The one-gallon container has been shrunk to 96 ounces and yet the packaging makes it look like you’re still buying a whole gallon.

• Ice Cream Containers. Several companies have subtly changed the size of their containers from ½ gallon to 1.75 quarts. When consumers started complaining, some of the companies explained that the smaller size fits better in the freezer! It’s almost like they’re doing us a favor!

Interestingly, the packaging industry has dubbed these new containers “cheater cups” because they’re designed to fool consumers. One thing companies are counting on is that it’s easy to sneak a subtle change past people. Like John Stossel is fond of saying, Give me a break! While there is often backlash at the beginning, most consumers end up accepting the change.

As we finish Romans 2 this morning, we’re going to learn that many believers today are “cheater Christians,” because they’re fooling themselves and others. Too many religious people have pretty packaging on the outside but have downsized the amount of spirituality on the inside. Unfortunately, most people have just accepted the change. Religion has some fatal flaws for it often focuses only on the outside, and not on the inside. We could say it this way: Ritualistic religiosity can lead to shrinking spirituality. Several years ago, Fritz Ridenour wrote a commentary on the book of Romans and entitled it, “How to be a Christian without Being Religious.” He established that Christianity is a relationship, not a religion filled with rules and rituals:

• It is possible to be a Christian without being religious.

• It is possible to be religious without being a Christian.

Montaigne once said, “I find no quality so easy to counterfeit as religious devotion.” Jesus cautioned against dressing up the outside in order to hide decay and death on the inside. His words were a rebuke to the religious of His day when He declared in Matthew 23:27: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.” Graves were painted white every year so no one would accidentally touch a tomb and be declared unclean. Those involved in ritual and religion were nicely painted on the outside but were actually dead on the inside, and in their deadness, were defiling others.

Paul has established that the immoral Gentiles are guilty before God in Romans 1:18-32. In Romans 2:1-16, Paul busts the moralists. Our text today in Romans 2:17-29 addresses the Jews, revealing that ritualistic religiosity can lead to shrinking spirituality. This is the toughest group to confront because those who are religious think they have all their bases covered. As we go through this passage remember that Paul himself was raised Jewish, a descendant of Benjamin, and a Pharisee. This is good to keep in mind because he uses some pretty strong words against his own people. As a sidebar, since Jewish people have suffered terrible mistreatment over the centuries, we should not participate in any derogatory remarks about them.

But Paul is definitely not an anti-Semite even though he calls Jews out by name in verse 17: “Now you, if you call yourself a Jew…” He is not making an ethnic slur but rather is arguing that everyone, whether religious or irreligious, is a sinner in need of the Savior. We were introduced to this theme in Romans 1:16: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” As we study together today, keep in mind that Paul loved Jewish people, even stating in Romans 9:3 that he was willing to be cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of those who are Jewish. We see his heart in Romans 10:1: “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.”

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