It is possible to be so wrapped up in something that you miss everything else. This is especially true when it comes to spirituality and the church. We can get so wrapped up in the our view of life and church, that we miss what God is doing that may be outside of the box that we have created for him. That is the danger of becoming religious in our churches today.
The writer Luke shares an incident from the life of Jesus that expresses this point. Jesus is interacting with someone who is missing the bigger picture. This person cannot see what God is doing because he is absorbed with his religious practices and thinking. Luke writes:
Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.” The Lord then answered him and said, “Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him. (Luke 13:10-17 NKJV)
You cannot help but be appalled at the reaction of the synagogue ruler. He is consumed with his religious rules and is indigent when they are not being followed by others. Notice how Jesus reacts to this guy. He makes three points about how this guy’s religion has gone bad.
1. They were nothing more than hypocrites.
Jesus calls “a spade a spade.” This guy presented himself as having his act together spiritually. But when it came to the redemption of someone who has been in bondage for many years, he focused on whether the man-made rules are being followed. You almost get the sense that if this woman had been his mother or wife, he would not have complained. He was a hypocrite. Religion meant more than people. Rules trumped needs.
2. They made exceptions for themselves.
Jesus points out the nature of their hypocrisy. he shows that they made exceptions for themselves when a need presented itself. They would work on the Sabbath to care for their animals. Yet it is wrong to help a woman who has been in physical bondage for eighteen years. Hypocrisy makes exceptions. It holds others to a different standard. But that standard is not applied to themselves. It knows the loopholes that it has created for itself. That is hypocrisy.
3. They overlooked the important for the insignificant.
Bottom line, this guy missed what God was doing in his midst. She was healed. That does not happen every day. But that is not important to this guy. Rather the issue is whether or not our religious rules are being followed. How dare God act outside of the box that I have created for him? Do you see the blindness of hypocrisy? Do you see how religion can go bad?
It is easy to be offended with this guy. Yet, the reality is we are just like him. We get so wrapped up in our self-righteousness that we miss what God is doing in our lives and in our church. We reject “outsiders” because they do not follow our “rules.”
Let be honest with ourselves. Are you hypocritical? Are you missing the important for the insignificant? Do you hold people to a different standard than yourself? If so, your religion has gone bad.
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