The teachers of the Law were the number one thing that hated Jesus’ mission. You see, a Pharisee is someone that is so busy being worried about someone else’s faith checklist that they can’t even see their own messed up life.
But that was the point of Jesus coming, wasn’t it? Faith in God is not about a checklist of do’s and don’ts, which is exactly what the teachers of the Law griped about the most.
Faith in God is about love. Love is hard work and it takes humility and patience to change into the kind of loving person that God requires of you to be.
And what does God require of you? Micah 6:8 says, “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” We all know the verse, but have we honestly thought it through to how we should live differently knowing that this is what God requires of us?
So what is true religion? A close cousin of this verse comes from James 1:27 that tells us exactly what God’s point of view is of true Religion:
Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
It’s seen when we group our sins, like pride, gossip or lying together and categorize them as “not as bad” as the terrible sins of “adultery and murder.” When actually the hidden sins, the ones that are hard to catch people doing, are probably the most volatile and wicked of all.
In God’s mind, there is no category. In fact, His standards are way above our standards. Jesus said in Matthew 5:21 that even if you “Hate your brother that you are subject to the judgment of murder.”
Jesus said, “Unless you are more righteous than the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of God.” Whoa. Hold on. I bet the crowd gasped for a minute thinking, “How can I ever get to heaven now? I don’t stand a chance!”
And I think that is actually what Jesus was trying to get to. You see, it’s not about our righteousness, it’s about our surrender.