4 And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables. 5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? 6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
Isaiah 29:13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
Proverbs 4:23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. 24 Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee. 25 Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. 26 Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. 27 Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.
This goes for all of us. One of my biggest problems is being genuine. I’m always thinking of myself and not Jesus Christ. When I am doing something for Him, supposedly, such as teaching Sunday School or witnessing to someone it is often vain as the success of the work becomes more important than Jesus Christ. This, I suspect, is a problem for many pastors and missionaries. They get caught up in a numbers game like some kind of salesman. “How many decisions have I gotten for Christ”, rather than how disciples are being made, how they’re being taught. We usually revert to the form of something rather than the heart. The important thing is not how your church is growing in numbers but how your church is growing in the Spirit.
The Pharisee wants to see that on the outside you are doing right. You are married, having never been divorced. You come to church whenever the doors are open. You dress ultra-modestly and not “worldly”. You twist the scriptures as they do to justify your convictions. It’s all on the surface. The Pharisee thinks that if you practice a habit your inside will change. This isn’t necessarily true.
These verses point out that Christians can retain the appearance of piety and spirituality and yet be as far from God as they can get without losing their salvation. We can get wrapped up in what looks like a Christian and have nothing in it for Christ. When you see someone who comes to church but you don’t think is dressed right or maybe they go to their car and light up a cigarette or perhaps when they pull in popular music is playing on their radio and maybe you don’t think their haircut is quite befitting a Christian don’t you find yourself judging their walk with Christ based on what you see?
The proof of having Christ in you is not based on outward forms of behavior although if someone is a foulmouthed bully it’s not likely they are a believer. But, the fruit or proof of the Spirit is listed in Galatians and, as often as I’ve repeated it, it bears repeating again. If you want to see proof that someone has the Spirit of God inside them you should see these things clearly in their life regardless of whether they perform any ritual act you accept as genuine;
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
These things give evidence of a Christian rather than how often they do some work that appeals to your flesh. And let’s not forget what Jesus said about the defining trait of His followers.
John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
And note what Paul said regarding this. We know from comparing scripture with scripture that the word charity refers to the Christians’ love for each other that Jesus talked about. (If you read 1 Corinthians 13:3, 2 Thessalonians 1:3, and 2 Peter 1:6,7 would you define charity as help, goods, or money given to the poor or would you define it as brotherly love which may include all of that but entails much more in attitude?)
Paul says this;
Colossians 3;14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
In fact, Paul goes on for an entire chapter about how Christian love is supposed to be in 1st Corinthians 13.
Peter says about this love;
1Peter 4:8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
John, in one of his letters, says;
1 John 2:9 He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. 10 He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. 11 But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.
These things, far more than any self-gratifying ritual, denote what it means to be a Christian. No amount of outward observance or forms of worship will help you draw closer to Christ if you don’t have evidence or fruit of the Spirit that dwells inside you and love for your brothers and sisters in Christ. Beyond that you would have love and compassion for the lost as someone for whom Christ died.
So beware of tradition and ritual as the signature of a Christian. It isn’t.