Believe it or not, there are countless millions that sincerely believe that God delights in their religiosity. What is religiosity? It is any or all of the following:
• Attending a church, synagogue, mosque, temple or other place of worship
• Serving in a ministry of any place of worship
• Converting others
• Following religious rules put in place by religious leaders or those of the Old Testament
• Punishing sinners
• Reading and studying religious texts
• Supporting church leaders
• Unquestionable loyalty to a religious institution
• Unquestionable loyalty to religious leaders
• Super modest attire (women and young girls only)
• Giving to the church or its ministry needs
• Growing a church to large numbers
• Bringing people to church to ‘hear the truth’ or to get ‘saved’
• Blind loyalty to religiously taught dogmas and precepts
• Memorizing religious texts
Actually, this list of religious behaviors (religiosity) could really go on and on! It is endless what people believe will please God and make them ‘right with God.’ So, for the sake of the millions who are living under this premise that they are pleasing God, I would like to shed some light on what God says pleases him. I have already covered what pleases God many times in articles on this blog. However, sometimes it is necessary to not ‘beat around the bush’ and just come right out and say it plainly…..RELIGIOSITY AND RELIGION DO NOT PLEASE GOD!
• Attending a religious institution does NOT please God!
• Serving in a ministry of a religious institution does NOT please God!
• Following religious rules does NOT please God!
• Memorizing religious texts does NOT please God!
• Punishing sinners does NOT please God!
• Dressing ‘modestly’ does NOT please God!
• Reading and studying religious texts does NOT please God!
• Financially supporting religious institutions and their leaders does NOT please God!
• Unquestionable loyalty to a religious institution, its leaders, its dogmas and precepts, does NOT please God!
• Building a church does NOT please God!
• Bringing people to church (a religious institution) to ‘hear the truth’ or to get ‘saved’ does NOT please God!
Well, some of you might be thinking at this point that what I have just stated sounds ridiculous. Well, maybe if I deliver my thoughts differently you won’t think I’m completely off my rocker. So, let’s take a look at what GOD says pleases him as compared to what man tells us pleases Him. Religions of the world tell us that all the above things please God and keep us in ‘good standing’ with Him. Not so.
According to the Prophets – What pleases God?
Micah taught that God’s primary demand of human beings is to act ethically: “And what does the Lord require of you? To do JUSTICE, love MERCY, and walk HUMBLY with God” (6:8). Micah doesn’t speak of faith, sacrifices, or religious behaviors or rituals. Instead he says God’s most significant demands are justice, mercy (compassion), and humility. All of these traits are rooted in ETHICS.
“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom; let not the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches. But one should only glory in this: That he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, Who exercises mercy, justice and righteousness on the earth. For in these I delight, says the Lord.(9:23-24)”
Jeremiah singles out the top three things that people tend to pride themselves on which cause them to feel superior to others and feel smug in their religiosity. But what delights God the most is mercy, justice and righteousness. Anyone who does not understand this does not “understand and know” God.
Don’t expect God to be impressed with how smart you are, how strong you are or how much money you have. Compared with God and his wisdom, strength and wealth, these mean nothing to him. However, using these things to bless others can impress God when used to achieve ethical ends. In other words, teach and inspire others to be good, use your power and strength to protect the oppressed, give your money to help those in need. People that do these things are pleasing to God.
According to Jewish teaching, Isaiah condensed the Old Testament’s 613 commandments into six principles of behavior:
• Practicing righteousness
• Speaking truthfully and fairly
• Spurning dishonest gain
• Refusing bribes
• Closing one’s ears to blood (not associating with anyone plotting violence against another)
• Closing one’s eyes from seeing evil (blindness to abuses and abusers)
Jewish Wisdom teaches us that, according to Isaiah, a person who does these things “will dwell on high” (33:15-16); i.e. be rewarded by God. Isaiah, according to Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, “denounced the tendency to believe that God’s favor can be won by those who do evil, and then offer prayers or perform ritual acts: “And when you lift up your hands [in prayer], I will turn My eyes from you. Though you pray at length, I will not listen. Your hands are stained in blood” (1:15).
God’s main wish for us as his children is to be righteous and ethical. It is not his wish for us to act religiously! Your religiosity has absolutely nothing to do with ethics. Religiosity does not make one ethical, righteous, humble, or pleasing to God.
“Is such the fast I desire, a day for men to starve their bodies? Is it bowing the head. . .and lying in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call that a fast, a day when the Lord is favorable? No, this is the fast I desire: . . . to let the oppressed go free and to break off every yoke. It is to share your bread with the hungry, and to take the wretched into your home; when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to ignore your own kin” (58:5-7). Isaiah is telling us that we should not fast to try and please God, we should fast so that we know what it is like to be hungry! In knowing what it is like to put ourselves in shoes of the less fortunate, we will have more compassion on our fellow man who is in need. We will treat such a person with kindness, compassion, love and mercy – all ethical behaviors. Most people I know fast in order to get something from God. How many fast in order to learn to exercise humility, compassion, mercy, or justice in dealing with others?
AMOS AND HOSEA
Both of these men emphasized the importance of ethical behavior over religiosity. According to Amos, any prayer offered by unethical people actually offends God: “Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice well up as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream” (5:22-24).
Hosea teaches that ethical behavior appeases God. “For I desire kindness and not sacrifice, attachment to God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6).
Zechariah also proclaims that God’s main concern is for people to behave ethically: “then the word of God came to Zechariah: This is what the God of Hosts said: ‘Render true justice, be kind and merciful to one another. Do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the convert or the poor; and do not plot evil in your hearts against one another’” (Zechariah 7:8-10). It was Israel’s refusal to obey these injunctions that brought God’s wrath upon them. What makes us think we can escape his wrath for ignoring them?
Malachi teaches that fair and compassionate treatment of others is the fruit of belief in God: “have we not all one father? Did not one God create us? Why do we break faith with one another (not treating them ethically), profaning the covenant of our ancestors?” (2:10). What this means is that it is important for us to not only do God’s will by treating others ethically (doing what is just and right and not breaking faith with others) but, we need to teach it to our children. “Gen 18:19: For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (This is the covenant of our ancestors: to do justice and judgment and teach it to our children.).
In looking back at biblical text it is important for us to realize the reasons God punished Israel and take heed. God condemned Israel for doing the following:
• Oppressing the poor (Amos 2:7)
• Perverting justice (Amos 5:7)
• Using unjust weights (Micah 6:10-11)
• Accepting bribes (Micah 3:11)
• Lying (Jeremiah 9:4)
• Murdering and stealing (Jeremiah 7:9)
• Adultery (Jeremiah 5:8)
• Swearing falsely (Jeremiah 5:2)
• Not paying workers their wages (Jeremiah 22:13)
• Disregarding others’ property rights (Micah 2:2)
Because of all these UNETHICAL behaviors, Israel was continually being punished by God. It doesn’t matter what you BELIEVE. It doesn’t matter your RELIGION. It doesn’t matter if you go to CHURCH or give exorbitant amounts of money to charitable institutions. None of these things PLEASE God. The ETHICAL treatment of others pleases God. Rooted in humility, ethical treatment of others is what God is wanting from his children. Religiosity has nothing to do with ethics. I know many who have forgone ethics to do what their religion tells them to do. They have prostituted themselves with the “church” to gain the favor of the church and its leaders instead of doing God’s will and walking humbly, exercising justice, and extending mercy and compassion to others.
Ethical behavior means more to God than your religion, your beliefs, your money, your sacrifice! Ethics come from WITHIN. They are a part of one’s character. They are rooted in genuine LOVE and RESPECT for one’s fellow man. Religiosity and religion are rooted in man’s opinions, interpretations, and man-made rules given by the religious institutions one serves. Religion and religiosity can actually undermine the work of the Spirit of God in our lives by overriding our conscience to follow religious rules and/or precepts in order to ‘be right with God.’ Both can become a part of our character. Both are learned behaviors and attitudes. One leads to righteousness, compassion, humility and mercy, the other leads to hate, oppression, murder, inequality, self-righteousness, judgmentalism, etc. One causes us to lift up and edify our neighbor, the other causes us to disregard, oppress and harm our neighbor.
With this in mind, let’s do what pleases God. In doing so, we will make the world a better place and bring God’s blessing upon us and our nation.