Pure and Undefiled Religion

To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
Proverbs 21:3

Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Matthew 9:13

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he brings it with evil intent.
Proverbs 21:27

When Yeshua chose his primary twelve disciples, he didn’t surround himself with money, power, and beauty. He chose men who were simple and complicated, rich and poor, soft and calloused. When he called them, they were fishermen, religious seekers, aristocrats, revolutionaries, and enemy collaborators. These were not the kind of men the Jewish religious and political leaders of the day would have chosen to be the companions of the Messiah.

Not only did Yeshua recruit a variety of unsavory characters as his personal disciples, he encouraged lepers, beggars, prostitutes, and tax collectors to gather in public places for teaching and in private places for table fellowship. He went so far as to seek them out and go to their homes.

You can’t spend your life studying God’s Law without learning that mercy is more important to God than sacrifices, but pride is a powerful force for brainwashing. Our tendency is to accentuate the good that we do and downplay the good that we could do, but don’t, even if those omissions are far more important in reality. When Yeshua told the Pharisees to go and learn what “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” means, he tore away their veil of self deception and rubbed their noses in their greatest sin. It’s no wonder they wanted to kill him!

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

Religion gets a bad rap, but that’s not really fair. The dictionary definition of religion is the set of beliefs and practices associated with the belief in and worship of a deity. That includes rituals, prayers, doctrines, and even codes of behavior. It can be good or bad. The Bible is full of positive examples of religion, but it also describes a lot of bad, like that of the Pharisees.

In God’s religion, the goal of sacrifice and ritual is a right heart, which is one that is full of love and eager to show kindness. If your religion doesn’t help to conform your heart to God’s, then it’s false and probably involves more worship of self than anything else.

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